“It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.”
– Warren Buffett
Building a reputation is hard work, however building a good reputation is even harder. Not only do you have to get people talking about you, but you also have to get them talking positively about you. And, as Warren Buffett points out above, all the hard work that goes into building a good reputation can be washed down the drain with one wrong move.
Thanks to the Internet, if you make the wrong move with a customer then it’s likely people are going to hear about it. Consumers are spoilt for choice when it comes to voicing their opinion; review sites, forums, blogs and social media – people are constantly chattering about their experiences with various companies and not just large companies either – they’re talking about small businesses as well.
Sites like these are why online reputation management has become such an important factor for small businesses. If the first thing a potential customer sees when they search a small business is a bad review, then it’s likely this one review will do some very real damage to their revenue.
Finding out what people are saying about you online is essential – and it isn’t that hard. There are a range of free tools out there like Google Alerts, Google News, Blogpulse and Yahoo Alerts, which send you emails whenever your company is mentioned online, telling you in real time what people are saying about you and where they’re saying it. This is great for positive comments, you can link to them on your website and build your reputation even more. However, if it’s bad then you will need to conduct some damage control.
When it comes to damage control the first thing you need to do is – calm down. Bad reviews happen and there are always going to be people who don’t have a wholly positive experience, so don’t take it personally. The worst thing a company can do when responding to a customer complaint is reply with an emotional or indignant comment, as it will only help ruin their reputation further.
What you need to do is maintain professionalism and respond to the criticism apologetically, sincerely and transparently. If you work through the situation with the person who posted the criticism and try to come up with a positive outcome for everyone involved, your company will go a long in maintaining a good reputation. Even if the situation is unable to be resolved, the mere act of attempting to right a wrong will work in your favour and anyone who reads the review will see you positively responding to criticism.
However don’t wait till you see negative sentiment about you or your business, get positive now and provide helpful relevant information by way of articles on a blog and share these articles far and wide using online sharing tools like Mobilize Mail’s CampaignHub and ensure to link to them in your email newsletter.
Small businesses need to wake up to the fact that people are talking about them online (even if their business is not online) and that it may have a negative impact their reputation which may also affect their revenue. While you can’t stop people criticsing your company you can get smart about it, and start managing your online reputation positively.
Warren Buffett was right, as soon as you realise how important your reputation is; ‘you’ll do things differently’.