Just ten years ago a product issue or customer service problem may not have been noticed by anyone other than a few people the customer may have told. But the landscape has changed dramatically with the pervasiveness of sharing both good and bad experiences regularly on social media. So having a plan for your business reputation management is key.

In 2017, according to the American Express Customer Service Barometer, Americans would tell 9

We tell more people today about our experiences, good or bad

people about their good experiences and 16 people about their poor experiences. That gap is closing. It is now 11 people for good experiences and 15 people for poor experiences.

Are You Keeping Track of Your Reputation?

That is why your corporate reputation and your overall reputation management is so important today. Good or bad you need to have your pulse on your business landscape.

Of course, your reputation won’t matter if you don’t have good products and services as well as good customer service. And your customer’s experience needs to be good every single time. According to a 2018 survey conducted by NewVoiceMedia, U.S. companies lose over $75 billion a year because customer’s needs are not met.

For example, if a customer receives poor customer service, 39 percent indicated they would never use the company again and 28 percent would post an online review and another 26 percent would complain via social media. A mere 7 percent would do nothing.

Conceivably if you have poor customer service, you could be losing 39% of your business regularly. That’s a tough number to recoup.

That’s why customer service and your on-going business reputation is more important today than ever. And surprisingly the generation that is willing to pay more for great customer service is the millennials. If they make a call, they want it answered timely. If they are connecting via social media they want their inquiry answered quickly and if they are on your website they want a quick reply.

Customers are More Connected and Vocal than Ever

A positive Customer Review can go a long way to building your online reputation

All companies must recognize that their customers are extremely connected online and unless they feel emotionally connected to your brand and/or your company they will switch to another company at the first bad experience.

Therefore, it is key to have a formal online reputation management policy. Whether feedback is positive or negative you need to be aware of the customer comments and respond. Even if the comment is negative that can be helpful to other potential customers (as long as it’s not too negative) because they will see the comment as a non-biased comment.

We have a very large hospital network as a client. They have more than 22,000 employees across 3 counties. And when you walk into any of their facilities you are greeted with the Director of First Impressions. They take the hospitality/customer service element very seriously. They recognize you can’t have just a “customer service department” the whole company must be customer service focused.

Obviously, your reputation goes beyond exceptional customer service. The internet has opened the door to postings both good, bad and ugly. And of course, the postings don’t have to be accurate or even real. There are malicious people posting just for the fun of it. Many times never considering the long term effects that their comments could have on a company’s reputation.

Now, reputation management goes beyond simply monitoring digital media. Another aspect to reputation management is to ensure that the appropriate online search results occur. When topics are being searched for online a business can have that managed by a reputation management company.

Reputation Management helps with Damage Control

Online reputation management (ORM) can include searching websites to include removal of

Bad reviews need to be addressed and handled tactfully so they don’t negatively impact your reputation

damaging corporate management personal issues such as mug shots, comprising photos (excessive drinking for example) as well as possible out of context verbiage. In addition, they may be reviewing customer review sites to remove or negate bad comments.

The primary focus of any ORM company is to maintain positive product and service results within all digital space. They are responsible for ensuring that your brand/company has the best possible online image. The ORM works so that all your positive news and reviews come first when anyone searches for your company, brand or product.

However, keep in mind that the reputation of a company does still exist off-line. What is the public perception of your business? Because perception is reality.

This is why many businesses have a public relations firm (some do both off-line and online reputation management) to handle media visibility, press releases and more. They work to build an ongoing relationship with your key targets. It could be various groups from your target customers to investors.

Some PR firms feel it may be necessary to help build a good reputation beyond a company’s product or service and will encourage their clients to become involved with a charitable cause.

We have a hotel client that has a stellar reputation for exceptional service. And as part of their corporate philosophy they are also very philanthropic. They didn’t become this way to increase their good reputation, they started the business this way. But it doesn’t hurt them.

Social Responsibility Can Help Reputation

Having a corporate culture that encourages volunteering can help with your on-going business reputation

Sometimes I feel they run the hotel just so they have profits to share with the various charities they support. And it doesn’t stop with the management. All the employees are encouraged to devote their time to various causes. And they do. When they announce they are looking for volunteers to help with building a house for Habitat for Humanity the sign-up sheet is full within hours. When they are hosting a blood drive there is a line when the bus pulls up with employees waiting to donate. And when there is an emergency like a Hurricane, they are all there to lend a hand.

They are an excellent example of how a public relations firm is not always policing for bad, they are ensuring all their good work is noted and their reputation is sound.

You might be asking; do I really need to hire a reputation management company? Obviously, that depends on many factors, chief among them, how is your company perceived on and off-line?

If you don’t have the budget to hire anyone there are some things you can do yourself to help your reputation.

  1. Ask for customer reviews (we call ours raving fan reviews)
  2. Encourage interaction with the customers online – ask them to post photos
  3. Respond promptly and tactfully to customer complaints
  4. Partner with influencers
  5. Expand your online presence and share content where appropriate
  6. Use available tools to monitor and manage your online reputation

Tools for Monitoring Online Reputation

As indicated above, there are tools that you can use to monitor your online reputation. At the least

Free tools like Google Alerts can help you manage your reputation

you should have your name, your company’s name and your product or service names set up as a Google Alert. This is an often overlooked FREE tool that many marketers and SEO managers use to alert them of any related content.

Another free tool is Social Mention. It helps you to see what people all over the world are saying about you, your company, your brand and your products through a simple search engine that compiles all the information into a single stream. It monitors more than 100 social media sites including YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and Google (and these are constantly changing).

Of course, there are many online tools that are available for a fee. Some seem reasonable others are quite a bit more.

But if you are a smaller to mid-sized company that hasn’t had any issues to date, I would recommend you start by seeing what the free services can provide to you. And don’t forget to tout your own horn by including your customer reviews on your website and social media channels.

Your off-line and online reputation is the cornerstone of your company’s future so you need to pay close attention to what the world is saying and reinforce the good.

Danette Gossett

Danette brings more than 30 years of experience developing advertising campaigns, direct marketing programs and sales promotions to her clients. Prior to starting her companies, she worked for New York advertising agencies including Saatchi & Saatchi & Lowe Marschalk.

Her corporate marketing experience included National Advertising Director for Avis Rent a Car Systems, Inc., and Director of Marketing Services for Royal Caribbean Cruise Line. Read More