What perception do customers have of your business? Has there been any incident that put a stain on your reputation? What were the consequences?
Your business reputation is what people think about your business based on their personal experience and what they heard from others, whether it’s true or not. A good reputation helps you attract new customers and retain existing customers. A bad reputation can wreak havoc on your business, turning away both customers and employees.
In this article, we’ll tackle how to manage your company’s reputation in good times and bad.
Principle 1: Own Up to Your Mistakes
Thanks to the Internet, anything and everything your business does (or doesn’t do) can go viral. If you’ve made a mistake, don’t deceive yourself that you’ll be able to cover it up. Take a lesson from the 1989 Exxon environmental disaster, when the tanker Valdez spilled 11 million gallons of oil into Alaska’s Prince William Sound. Exxon turned its mistake into a public relations disaster by not responding to the crisis immediately. The media crucified them.
Model for success: In contrast, when Ashland Oil spilled oil into a river near Pittsburgh, the company chairman traveled to the scene immediately, held a press conference, and got crews working on cleaning up the mess. By managing the crisis openly and immediately, the company saved face.
If your business screws up, tell your customers immediately. The top person in your company should deliver the news (along with a sincere and detailed apology if an apology is warranted).
Principle 2: Make Your Apologies Effective
There’s no single right way to apologize, but one of the worst ways is being overly formal: “I apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused you.” The word “may” implies some doubt over whether or not an inconvenience actually occurred, and “I apologize” sounds distant and standoffish. Use the more direct “I’m sorry.”
When you’re considering the best way to apologize, think about what you’d want to hear if you were on the receiving end. Consider whether you would believe the apology you’ve crafted.
Principle 3: Provide Speedy Customer Service
When it comes to your business’s reputation, great customer service is critical. Customers hate being put on hold. They hate hearing canned messages about how much the company cares about them even though no one will take their call. But customers are over-the-moon happy when their calls or emails are answered with speedy, personalized service.
You don’t even need to have a perfect solution to their problem or question. Just saying you’ll look into it and get back to them will make them feel valued. (But make sure you do follow through, or you’ll lose their trust.)
Principle 4: Give Every Employee Customer Contact
Have every team member, from your company’s engineers to your marketing staff, connect with your customers for at least a few hours each month. When engineers and designers hear customer feedback directly—instead of getting it second- or third-hand from salespeople or marketing managers—they’ll be more motivated to make a great product.
Principle 5: Leave Some Complaints to Resolve Themselves
Some complaints resolve themselves, especially ones that involve changes to your product. Customers often have a knee-jerk reaction to changes—even improvements—so don’t be surprised if you hear complaints about your product’s new feature. Once the customers get used to the change, the backlash will stop.
Tell the customer who doesn’t like the product change that you hear what they’re saying and understand their feelings. But don’t change your product again just to make them happy. Wait a bit and see if they learn to adjust to the change.
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