Every phone conversation, system installation, driver behavior and consumer review influences reputation…good or bad. For your business there are innumerable points that risk all the time and effort spent in building a good reputation. Have you listed them lately? Have you shared with your staff the importance of maintaining a good to excellent business reputation? I think this Rupert Murdoch quote clarifies the priority:
“Our reputation is more important
that the last hundred million dollars.”
So, we can agree reputation is important. To turn that to actionable steps let’s break it into two areas – Risks and Resources. As a business owner I start off with some of the obvious ones like courtesy on the phone and making sure my field teams drive safely and are professional while on site. Risks that are a bit more hidden are often driven by newer technology and increased expectations.
The growth of social media and review sites like Yelp have shifted influence more peer-to-peer. Whether you believe in social media or not, one of the first things many folks do is go online to find out what they can about a product or company. Even if your Better Business Bureau reviews are strong your reputation can still be damaged by poor reviews on Facebook or damaging information showing up in a Google search.
Beware if you start to think the solution is to not have things online. Generally, people expect a digital presence beyond a website these days. Businesses in service and manufacturing particularly benefit with good reputations online and offline for recruiting and new sales. Clients and prospects expect to find you where they are looking. In other words, expectations are high that you are a strong company online and offline.
- Let your staff know they play a role in building and keeping the company reputation strong. I’ve never liked the saying “the customer is always right” because I feel like it devalues staff. I do like the phrase “the customer doesn’t have to be right, but they do need to be happy.” Asking “what can we do to make this right for you?” empowers both parties.
- Respond in a positive tone to complaints. And if you can’t do it, find someone that can. In this digital world of recordings and viral content, companies that respond inappropriately can quickly become news. “Take the high road!” is an excellent mantra to post around your building.
- Carefully consider what you post online – anywhere – no matter the privacy settings. Management in a company is seen as representative of the company values and ethics. Whether you agree or not, privacy is thin when it comes to photos being posted out of context. Look at the founder of Papa Johns and what happened when photos of his big game hunting became a national outcry and consumer boycott. Again, you don’t have to agree, but understand that it’s the current reality.
DON’T let this discourage you from making full use of online directories, social media and any other digital resource available to enhance your reputation.
Speaking of resources…
- DO monitor your online reputation by creating a Google Alert. You will get notified when the names or phrases you have in your alert appear online.
- Have clear procedures for those that are involved with any online customer interactions. If a customer complaint is received on Facebook, thank the person and move the conversation offline. Never get into an argument where the world can watch.
- Follow up on any negative online reviews. This is an opportunity that you can use later as an example of turning the complainer into a fan. At the very least, be sure to show concern and the desire to make things right within the conversation online.
- For those interacting face-to-face remind them of resources like LinkedIn to better understand a customer’s business needs. Checking a potential client or vendor reputation in advance can give insights that help in service and negotiations.
DON’T loose sight of how important reputation is to a business. Online, offline, by referral or through association, customers, potential and existing employees and future opportunities are all impacted by how your business is perceived.
Reputation can change quickly, so stay vigilant and reinforce the message to your staff regularly. As Warren Buffett says
“It takes 20 years to build
a reputation and five minutes to ruin it.
If you think about that,
you’ll do things differently.”
To download your REPUTATION poster, click here.