As the world becomes more globalized, the saying that “news travels fast” is more and more apparent. When it comes to your company’s reputation, the news must be positive. People talk and so do your actions as a company.
If you can show clients that you are confident in the mission of your business, they will continue to support you through the good and bad. Reputation management is key to success as it will build loyalty within your customer base.
What is reputation management and why is it important nowadays?
In today’s world, no matter which industry you are in, your company is one internet search away from potential customers. How you are perceived by people is huge and cannot be underestimated.
As a company, you need to develop the skills to manage your reputation. Reputation management is the act of influencing what people think of your brand when viewed online.
In this section, we will discuss several important aspects of reputation management:
#1. Reputation is imperative for a company’s survival
Many companies have been destroyed by PR blunders. Before the age of the internet, when you had a bad experience with a company, you would tell a few people in your immediate circle.
Nowadays, you can effectively share your complaints with the entire world on social media, and in the news. One bad situation can lead your business to bankruptcy.
Take Enron as an example, a company that had major corruption problems and consequent public relations downfalls. Their reputation was hurt so badly that they had to close down indefinitely.
Other companies have structures put in place to handle these blowbacks, but not without the financial cost. Think of companies such as United Airlines, Steinhoff, or BP who were able to stay afloat after some seriously bad press.
If you are familiar with the Steinhoff scandal which took place in South Africa in 2017, you would know that many people lost their retirement fund because a small group of executives at Steinhoff committed $7.4 billion in accounting fraud.
The company’s name was dragged through the dirt and consequently, their share price plummeted – losing 99% of its share value. All those responsible were let go. Some are facing serious legal action and some even went into hiding. This looks very bad in the public eye.
As a consumer, one would find it very difficult or nearly impossible to trust a company like Steinhoff again. Yet, through focusing solely on managing their reputation, they have managed to survive and are slowly making their way back to where they once were.
#2. Sales are affected by a poor reputation
Nobody will want to support you as a company if you have a bad reputation. This is because what people think of your company has everything to do with your company. Without loyal customers who trust that they will receive great service from you, your company would be nowhere.
#3. Reputation isn’t important only for businesses, but also for individuals
In this day and age, if someone knows your name and last name, they will be able to look you up on the internet.
A simple Google search will give people your social media accounts, LinkedIn profile, business affiliations, and so on. In doing so, anyone can get a rough idea of who you are.
It is critical that your online presence is not marred by inappropriate posts on social media. What people see about you online has a massive effect on what they think about you.
#4. People reverse their purchases if your company has bad press
It has been shown that 87% of people would rather not buy from your company if your reputation is in question. They feel that they cannot trust you as a company and thus try to steer away from being associated with you.
How to implement reputation management in your marketing strategy and handle online reviews
At times, it may feel like your reputation is out of your hands, but it’s not. You can actively manage your reputation online by considering the following steps:
Step #1. Observe your reputation
First of all, you need to know what people are saying about you, or if they are even talking about you at all. The search engines are a very resourceful pool of information for this purpose.
Look your business up on the internet. If you are in the restaurant business, take a look at reviews on TripAdvisor. What are people saying about you on Twitter and Instagram?.
To watch what is being said about you online, you will have to scan through reviews and social media posts. As this would take a lot of time to do manually, there are apps and tools which will scan the internet for you.
Once you have a clear picture of where you stand, you will be able to take action.
Step #2. Set up a plan to respond
Create a procedure that you can refer to in any situation.
Who will monitor and log reviews and social media comments?
This will most likely be someone in your customer relations department or your social media manager.
Which comments require attention?
Each comment usually deserves a reply. For a good comment, mostly acknowledge and thank the reviewer. For a bad comment, you can use the opportunity to change the person’s mind.
Who decides what stance the company will take with potential issues such as bad reviews?
If your social media manager doesn’t know how to respond, there should be someone who they can turn to such as the managing director of the company. This person needs to be able to speak on behalf of the company.
Who will be in charge of communicating the response?
Depending on the size and scope of the situation, either the social media manager will respond on the company’s social media page or an official spokesperson and/or CEO should make a statement.
Step #3. Deal with negative press very carefully
We have seen all too often how words can be taken out of context in the news and on social media. Therefore, this step is of paramount importance.
Bad reviews are a reality and knowing how to handle them makes all the difference for your company.
Be professional and polite
It is best not to take these types of things to heart. The tone of the response should be level-headed and directed, by name, to the client with the complaint.
People usually know that problems aren’t fixed in a day, but they want to feel like they are being heard and that something will be done to rectify the situation.
Response time is critical. If a complaint has been online for a while without any response from your company, it will reflect badly and look like you are avoiding the comment.
Instead, tackle the complaint immediately with a reassuring reply. Let the customer know that their message has been received and that you are working on the issue.
Turn the complaint into an opportunity
Usually, customers complain for a reason. They aren’t out to get you, but genuinely have a problem with your product or service.
Even if some complaints seem to be unfounded, take the time to go through each complaint and get to the root of the issue. This will only benefit your company and product. After all, your product is only as good as people say it is.
Contact the individual privately
If the customer is past the point of being able to be won over in the comments section, ask for an email address so that you can handle the situation privately.
Offer the customer condolences and ask for an opportunity to rectify the issue. This will show the customer that you are committed to giving great service.
Note: never try to remove complaints from websites as that will lead to trouble and will not look good if the person who is complaining realizes. They will take the issue further and you will be in the wrong for deleting their comments.
Step #4. Don’t forget to also focus on the positives
Positive comments need just as much attention as negative ones. Responding to your supportive customers with gratitude can only strengthen their admiration and motivate others to do the same.
Take an active approach to manage your online profiles
Go the extra mile to thank customers who leave positive reviews. Show them that you are grateful for their support. All their contacts on social media will see just how caring your company is and will want to support you.
Ask for a review
If you are confident that you have done a great job, ask your customers for feedback. This will show you what you are doing right and will show others what they can expect from your company.
Step #5. Stick to your word
The final step is to fulfil your promise to your clients. Make the necessary changes to keep your customers happy.
Track your progress
Make sure you can measure the number of negative reviews vs positive reviews about your company after you have taken action. Many online tools will provide this feature for you. This allows you to see if what you are doing is working.
Seeing progress also motivates you to continue working harder and giving your customers the best service.
Managing your reputation is not complicated. All it takes is the necessary time and effort to implement a plan. Refer to this plan time and again for consistent action. If you take control of your reputation, your company will surely flourish.
About the Author!
David Lukić is an information privacy, security and compliance consultant at IDstrong.com. The passion to make cyber security accessible and interesting has led David to share all the knowledge he has.