Companies used to be able to control a large portion of their message through advertising. Now, thanks to digital media, online reviews, and customers doing their own research, creating and maintaining a positive image requires much more subtlety and work.
The importance of a positive image
Customers naturally want to do business with companies they feel they can trust. They want to know a brand performs well, will meet their needs, and will be there to help with any problems that arise. A strong brand presence can be a fantastic advertising tool. It helps to spread your reach and encourage new prospects to become paying customers. But just as a positive review can boost sales, a negative one can spread like wildfire through social networks and hurt a reputation — and the bottom line.
Steps to foster a positive reputation
- Focus on the customer experience. When customers feel valued and trust that service is a genuine priority, they become much more likely to return and recommend your brand to others.
- Focus marketing efforts on providing value for customers. Customers today research companies before making a purchase, so be that reliable source of information they can turn to for answers to their questions.
- Build a community around your brand. Encourage customers to interact with you and with each other through social media and real life events. Strong communities build loyalty and positive associations.
- Anticipate people leaving reviews on the major review sites. Take the time to upload pictures and provide information, so the review sites show a complete picture. Encourage satisfied customers to leave reviews.
How to handle a negative review
Most well-established companies do end up getting the occasional negative review. It’s impossible to please everyone all the time. You’ll probably have at least one customer who thinks you should have done something differently, so it’s important not to panic if someone writes something less than friendly on either a review site, social media, or a blog. It’s also not the time to get defensive and start a battle of words. Instead, take the opportunity to demonstrate the professionalism and commitment to customer satisfaction your brand advertises.
Respond to the negative review personally, saying how sorry you were the customer didn’t have a good experience. Restate your commitment to making the customer happy and offer to rectify the situation. Contact the customer offline whenever possible, and see if the situation can be improved. Discounts on future services, money back, and sometimes even just an apology can help smooth over hurt feelings and improve the relationship between customer and company.
In certain situations, you might not want to apologize. Say, for example, the customer complains about something that’s a critical part of your brand. Rather than apologize, try restating your company’s goals. Apologies should be genuine. If you have nothing to apologize for, then stick with being professional and courteous to the customer.
If the situation is resolved completely, you can ask the customer to remove the negative review. You can also post another reply to the review, saying you were glad you were able to work with the customer to resolve the issue.
By making your efforts to satisfy the customer public, you’re advertising your commitment to customer care. People understand that even the best companies make mistakes. It’s the steps taken to correct these mistakes that matter.
Managing your brand’s reputation will have an enormous impact on the trust potential customers feel. Understanding the factors that go into reputation management in the digital age can help you better leverage technology to improve how you’re seen online.