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3 Steps To Managing Your Business Reputation

Mon, 06/09/2014 - 11:16am | by jennaleesmith1

Every business has a reputation to protect. With the world becoming more internet savvy,  consumers can now easily check a business’s reputation.That means businesses need tounderstand how to maintain and repair their online reputations.

Why? Because a business’s success can depend on an stellar online reputation and that's not hyperbole.

It's common knowledge now that taking your business online is an important step in the success of  a company. More than 42% of Americans shop online before choosing to do business with any brick and mortar company. They look primarily at cost, business practices, and reputation (or reviews). 

Maintaining a strong reputation online can be done in three easy steps:

1) Become more proactive

Whenever possible, establish a reputation for being proactive right from the start. Doing so ensures that your  reputation is easily maintained. Being proactive allows the company to control and minimize potential crises when they arise. If you have a reputation for reaching out to your customers they will remember that when the going gets tough.

Being proactive also means getting into the trenches with the online community. Consumers love to talk and share their stories. By being active in the process not only can you show that you are engaged in their needs, but it gives you a unique insight to potential risks that may not otherwise have come to light before crisis came. 

Find out where your customers hang out. For example, if you sell crafts, cruise major craft forums to find out what people are saying about your product and learn what they are looking for that they cannot find. A good option for this is becoming active in the Etsy community. 

If you can provide customers with the service, direct them to the product with a direct link and perhaps even a discount. Pay attention to comments on social media networks and participate in discussions on your pages on Facebook or Twitter.

2) Appoint a person or team to work on reputation management

Place someone else in charge of reputation management so that you can concentrate on the business. Find a media savvy person  to maintain  your reputation and deal with any crisis that may arise. Their job will be to  build, maintain, and repair the online reputation of the company. .

Hiring a reputation manager to deal with issues allows the company to keep a clear, consistent voice on all matters. It also keeps real-time track of issues in a timely manner. One good example of how a poorly handled real-time response can hurt a business is the BP oil spill of a few years ago. The company had trouble with response time because the statement issued by the CEO was delayed. BP would have been better served to have a professional firm help create a swift response to the public. The voice could have been filtered and made clearer, preventing them from further damaging the reputation.

3) Take responsibility with honesty

If a crisis does arise, the company must accept responsibility for what happens, regardless of the cause. Be sure  when talking with the public have an outline of steps to repair the problem.. People don’t just want to hear an apology; they want to know how you plan to fix the problem. 

Going back to the BP example, the apology was issued to the public. BP made another mistake by not taking  responsibility for what happened. When it was pointed out that the drillers’ rigs were not in proper working order, the company denied that they would sign a contract with any driller that was not properly functional. This statement later came back to give the company more grief. If they had taken responsibility with honesty, managing the company's reputation would have been easier to deal with.

If a problem arises, even if your business wasn't aware of the issue, it is still responsible for admitting to the honest mistake and offering solutions. These problems can range in complexity from mislabeled merchandise to catastrophic oil spills. Always apologize honestly for a mistake the company has made, even if it was done unknowingly.

No company is perfect and the public understands this. Accidents happen, policies sometimes have to change. Just make certain that the company is prepared to take responsibility for any negative implications that can arise.

Managing or repairing reputations is not just about telling the public what you intend to do. It is also about showing them through action instead of inaction.

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