Business is hard enough at the moment, without having to worry about negative perceptions of your brand. One company who knows all about this is Nuance Communications, the speech recognition specialists, who are still battling the widely-held view that this kind of technology doesn’t really work. So MT asked Nuance’s Steve Miller for his top ten tips on how to overcome negativity.
1. Don’t shy away from the problem
Changing negative perceptions about your business’s products or services is far from easy – but managed correctly, views can be changed. On the other hand, if you adopt the wrong approach or fail to take the issue seriously, sustained negative perception can become a business-threatening reality.
2. Begin at home
When faced with the challenge of overcoming negative perceptions, look inside your business first. Ask yourself: do I really believe in the proposition? Can I see the business value of what we are doing? And am I emotionally connected with the offering? I firmly believe that if business leaders are not committed to what their business is delivering, they are not likely to be fully effective.
3. Kill internal negativity
Stamp out home-grown negativity. You can’t convince others if you’re harbouring dissenting voices in-house; it’s divisive and, when left unchecked, corrosive to the company’s competitive spirit. Only those who are fully committed should be involved in design, development, sales and customer service. This requires tough decisive action to be taken swiftly, or there is a risk the project – and even the business – will not move beyond mediocrity.
4. Find the right channel
Many organisations fall down because they don’t communicate to prospects in an effective way. If we wish to bring the value of our offering to life to help people to understand and appreciate what we do, then we must think creatively. Why just use words if you have a full artist’s palette in your hands? Think creatively – use a range of visual and interactive tools to get your message across.
5. Get the message right
It is a given that the messages need to be simple and easy to understand. Yet many organisations still don’t put this into practice. If you can distil your proposition down to a number of simple words, backed up by clear and creative proof points, you’re well on the way.
6. Take pride in your track record
Customers tend to be increasingly cautious or even sceptical. So at an early stage there is benefit in indicating to customers the level of trust placed into the systems by others. If trusted global brands are using your offering, it indicates that it is working and delivers value.
7. Highlight commonalities
Even if you talk about your current clients, there may be a spoken or unspoken observation: ‘That might be fine for them but ‘our’ business is different.’ Of course, all companies are different, but there are often areas of commonality (in our case, this might be a desire to increase productivity or cut costs, or that they all use the voice channel to interact with employees or customers). Pinpoint common and core activities; highlight common aims and illustrate how similar approaches can deliver relevant benefits.
8. Use all your available advocates
Sales and marketing staff can inform prospects what you do, and why you do things in a particular way, but prospects don’t have to believe you. I regularly bring in our engineers and developers to take the exposition of our offering to a different level. In conjunction with the sales staff, we show how our design, development and configuration processes start and end with a business problem. Committed and knowledgeable engineers and developers can be very persuasive promoters.
9. Play to your strengths
It sounds obvious, but if you’re getting bogged down in discussions about specific issues, some of the major facts can be overlooked. Don’t be bashful. If you have leading brands as repeat customers, they’re your most powerful advocates.
10. Raise the stakes
Our technology is in use in many sensitive environments – particularly healthcare where the accuracy and quality of Nuance’s products needs to be of the highest standard to ensure patient care is not at risk. Not all organizations can point to a life and death example, but if it is possible to show how trusted the company is in mission-critical environments then surely that trust is an important counterpoint to some negative perceptions.
Steve Miller is Senior Vice President and Managing Director for EMEA at Nuance Communications, the world’s largest speech recognition technology vendor. Its speech technology is used by every major car and personal navigation device maker in the world; in over 3bn mobile phones; by over 21m office workers worldwide; and in 3,000 call centres to handle 8bn calls every year.