You’ve spent years building your company’s reputation for quality, reliability, honesty and fairness, with a strong focus on client care and satisfaction – the characteristics that define your company’s values.
Because you have such a squeaky clean reputation, you rank highly with Google, Yahoo, Bing and other search engines, driving more traffic to your website, which, in turn, produces more customers or clients purchasing your services or products.
However, all of that hard work to build a sound reputation can disappear with one bad review. If you’re a building contractor, for example, an unhappy customer can post a scathing review that scares away other prospects looking for your services.
Even scarier? You may not even know who posted that bad review.
All you have to do is look at the consumer reviews on Product Review (productreview.com.au) or Amazon (amazon.com) to see just how damaging a single review can be. And, if there are five or six negative, one-star reviews, your business may be imploding any day now. Something is very wrong if reviewing sites slam your business time and again.
Your company’s reputation, and your personal reputation, can be side-swiped by a dissatisfied consumer at any time, but fixing that review should be done in no time.
Online Reputation Management
Regardless of how large or small your business, how long you’ve been in business, what products or services you sell, or how quickly you pay vendors and sub-contractors, your business has a reputation.
Are you a slow payer? That reputation may spread quickly throughout your industry or service area, making it more difficult to secure credit from wholesalers.
Over-charges. A deal killer every time. No company or consumer wants to be over-charged, and if just one of your previous clients posts a review that you padded the bill, the office phone may stop ringing.
Use inferior replacement parts. Another deal breaker. I’m not going to call a service technician who uses inferior off-brand parts to fix my washing machine. Are you?
The fact is, people are talking about you and your company. The conversation may take place neighbour-to-neighbour, co-worker-to-co-worker, friend-to-friend, or they may be talking about you on websites that rate service providers or retailers.
Before the Internet, an unhappy customer might have told his immediate circle about how badly you served him, but the likelihood of doing serious, permanent damage that couldn’t be eradicated quickly was unlikely. A single consumer didn’t have much clout in affecting your company’s reputation because there weren’t any outlets to express that opinion to a large audience.
That’s different today. Anybody can write and post a negative review of your company. Literally, anybody. And once that negative review is up, and your one-star performance is there for all to see, it’s going to stay up for a long, long time. The fact is, you may not realize the impact a single bad review has on your company for months.
By the time you do assess the damage to your bottom line, your business may be out of business. Today, consumers of your services or products are empowered. How?
The Internet makes it easy to find the best – the best carpenter, the best accountant, the best hand-made goods – all I have to do is enter my search and postal code in the search engine query box and in seconds I have a long list of companies that do what you do or sell what you sell.
With a little more digging, I can probably find out a lot more about you. Bloggers, for example, may post negative pieces about your company’s products. I read one and move on to another retailer with a five-star reputation, not knowing who that blogger is or what credentials she has to evaluate your business engagement.
That’s a BIG problem. Read some of the reviews posted on Amazon, for example. You’re likely to find uninformed opinions from consumers unqualified to evaluate the item. Conversely, a review describing a broken product that arrived two weeks late is going to cut in to your bottom line no matter what qualifications the reviewer has. Broken is broken. Late is late. I don’t need an expert to tell me that your business provides horrible, maddening client care. Any consumer can tell me.
Your reputation is built or destroyed online by consumers of your products or services. That gives the reviewers creditability and immense power. They’re warning other potential consumers to stay clear of your company, and many will do just that.
Good reviews, on the other hand, are just as powerful, pulling in consumers who read what other consumers post about your business. Word of mouth (WOM) advertising has been around for centuries. Today, WOM can go global with a 140 character Tweet on Twitter. And if that WOM is negative, you’re going to see a drop in business.
Count on it.
The Role of Transparency in Reputation Management
The word “transparency” gets thrown around a lot these days. It’s one of those buzzwords that we all think we understand, but maybe we have some misconceptions about just what transparency is and how it impacts our reputation.
In business, being transparent can be risky. Asking for product or service delivery testimonials from clients can lead to problems. Sure, you’re transparent in asking for consumer input, but if that input is negative, fixing it may be expensive or time-consuming.
When talking about transparency in reputation management, what we’re really talking about is openness, integrity, ethics, and a laser-beam focus on delivering to client or customer expectations.
The easiest way to avoid negative reviews is to eliminate any reason for consumers writing and posting them. If no negative reviews are posted because you deliver transparent terms, no hidden fees, a money-back guarantee, and an easy-to-read, transparent service contract, consumers will write positive reviews.
A consumer who fails to read the microscopic clauses of your sales contract, only to discover that your company recharges a 20% “re-stocking fee” on returns is going to be mad. Wouldn’t you be mad? Sure you would.
Transparency creates trust and trust is maintained by keeping your customer base happy no matter what the problem or the cost to fix that problem.
Keep contracts simple – short, sweet, and understandable.
Create a statement of work (SOW) with clearly defined milestones.
Post shipping and return policies throughout the check-out process of your online store. If you try to trick or fool a customer, you could find yourself scrambling to make things better before you close the doors for good.
Honour all posted policies. If you deliver a one-year guarantee on your products, fix that broken product ASAP to avoid a negative review, or better still, to turn a negative review into a positive review.
This article will be continued in our next post.