The success of a small business hinges on its sales, which is typically the focus of any business. However, equally important is your reputation, which can make or break your business. In fact, the majority of consumers who have had a bad experience with a small business are not forgiving, and a large percentage of them will even go on to malign a business to their friends, family, and anyone online who will listen. Your business’ reputation is one of your most valuable, and fragile, assets.
In a previous blog, we focused on effective reputation management -- the practice of attempting to shape public perception of a person or organization by influencing online information about that entity -- and combatting negative reviews. Now, in order to help small businesses avoid the mistakes that cause a negative review and/or reputation in the first place, we present the top five ways to prevent a bad reputation.
No. 1: Do not make promises you can’t keep. In any area of life, making a promise you cannot or will not keep will harm a relationship, while damaging trust and credibility. When a business fails to deliver on something it has guaranteed, such as living up to its promise of a warranty on a defective product, for example, its reputation will be forever tarnished in the mind of consumers. Because many small businesses rely on word-of-mouth referrals, fostering mistrust by not living up to promises made to customers has the potential to run you right out of business.
No. 2: Make quality customer service a goal. Customer service is key to the success of any small business. Bad or negligent customer service will give consumers the impression that you either don’t care about assisting them or simply don’t know how; either way, they will go running to your competitors that offer quality and considerate customer service.
No. 3: Keep advertising clean and inoffensive. Not everyone shares your beliefs, and political, religious, moral, etc., opinions should be kept out of your advertising. Even if you have a targeted group of consumers in mind, refrain from being offensive in your marketing and advertising campaigns, whether online or in print. It’s acceptable to stand out from competitors with a unique advertising message, but always wise to not go too far at the risk of offending and alienating a large segment of your target audience who will not hesitate to not give you their business.
No. 4: Always be polite and professional. No matter how solid your product and/or service is, there are always going to be those who find fault with them for whatever reason. However, when dealing with an unsatisfied customer, politeness and professionalism are paramount. A prompt yet polite promise to rectify a complaint can go a long way toward that customer giving your business a second chance. Conversely, a hostile or dismissive reaction can inspire that consumer to post a negative review of your business online, which can potentially damage your business and its reputation.
No. 5: Keep your employees happy. A disgruntled employee, or employees, can be just as detrimental to your business’ reputation as a negative online review from a customer, as unhappy employees have a tendency to bad-mouth a business publicly if their relationship with an employer goes south. To preclude this, simply treat your employees with fairness and respect, and discuss any work-related issues that might arise openly and honestly, without reacting over-emotionally.