Your business has a great reputation, and you’re reaping the rewards through referrals and positive word of mouth. However, in today’s world of instant communication, it’s easy for a simple slip-up to destroy in seconds the reputation you’ve taken years to build.
Here are five tips to help you implement strong business reputation management practices and avoid the damage of a customer service error, clerical mistake, worksite accident, or other issue.
1. Avoid a data breach or theft
In today’s security-conscious world, nothing can damage a company’s reputation like a data breach or theft. This is particularly true of businesses that serve a limited local area where word gets around quickly. In addition to a damaged reputation, certain data-related issues can be costly, especially if the business is required to pay for things like a credit monitoring service, new bank accounts, or fraudulent charges for customers impacted by an incident.
Make it a point to consistently use secure internet connections (no Wi-Fi) and trusted payment and financial providers to avoid data breaches and cyber thefts. Also, make sure you’re always in complete control over all your computer devices and paper data files. Surprisingly, some of the biggest cyber breaches result from physical thefts.
Case study: Wendy runs a mid-size contracting business in Texas. She maintained her firm’s contact list and ledger on simple spreadsheets on her tablet device. The tablet was stolen and the thieves hacked into it.
They quickly accessed the spreadsheets and began fraudulently billing her clients’ accounts. Once the issue was uncovered, her clients were forced to close their accounts and open new ones. Many had to establish new email addresses and telephone numbers as well.
Wendy’s firm was responsible for picking up the cost of the new accounts for her clients and the value of the fraudulent billings, along with expenses associated with the work time required to change email addresses and phone numbers. In addition, many clients decided to move their work to her competitors. They completely lost trust in her because of the irresponsible way she handled their data and private company information.
2. Monitor social media – closely
Most companies today have a presence on social media. It’s a great way to generate business and maintain relationships with current clients. However, most are unaware that social can be a hotbed for customer complaints until it’s too late.
Today, many consumers bypass traditional customer service channels, either because of impatience or frustration, and vent their issues publicly on social sites. If a business doesn’t respond to those complaints in a timely manner, it can seriously damage its reputation, especially with prospective clients who are doing research.
It’s a good practice to have someone on your team monitor your company social media sites at least once a day to check for comments and complaints. Also, have a plan in place for how to respond to common issues. It’s a good way to speed response time. It can be as simple as having a message at the ready that asks the person making the complaint to contact your customer service number.
Tip: Don’t just respond to negative posts. Comment on positive ones as well. It’s a great way to reinforce relationships with your biggest social fans.
Case study: Mark runs a business that supplies electrical sound and lighting equipment to concert venues. After years of providing stellar service, including having a perfect on-time record, his firm missed a delivery to a local club.
The owner of the club tried calling Mark and couldn’t reach him. Feeling anxious and frustrated at the time, she posted an extreme complaint on the Facebook page of Mark’s company, hoping to get his attention. The members of the band playing that night used the Facebook page to vent as well. In total, the incident led to 10 complaints on the rental company’s page. They completely overwhelmed any positive remarks the company had ever received.
In the end, Mark and the club owner connected over the phone, and the issue was resolved to the club owner’s satisfaction. She continued renting equipment from Mark’s firm and was happy with the service.
The issue: Mark is a busy guy and not social media savvy. He didn’t check out his Facebook page for months after the incident. However, many potential new clients did. They saw the negative posts and decided not to do business with the rental company. Mark didn’t find out about the problem until his new business pipeline dried up and it was too late.
Mark was never able to recover his company’s reputation after this incident, and it significantly affected its growth.
3. Prevent on-the-job accidents
On-the-job incidents, accidents, injuries, and deaths can have a bigger impact on a firm’s reputation, both with clients and employees, than almost any other factor.
On-the-job incidents must be reported to government agencies like the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, but in the past, news of them rarely made it to local or national media. Today, information about these incidents hits social media in seconds and is broadcast on local news websites in minutes. This could drive away possible clients and make current and potential employees wary of working with your firm.
Tip: Always work with a reputable temporary power supplier to ensure all your system components are safe, compatible, and installed correctly.
Case study: Mack runs a mining operation in Nevada. The business was successful because he always had a dependable supply of quality workers who appreciated Mack’s careful business practices. He was able to slowly grow the operation in smart and sensible ways.
One day, a worker discovered a new, very promising area to mine. His supervisor pushed the team to start exploring it as soon as possible. In their haste, they leveraged an old temporary power plan from another section of the mine. Unfortunately, the plan was not adequate for the new area, and two workers were badly injured the first day it was in operation.
Mack’s employees were disappointed that shortcuts led to worker injuries. Many quit their jobs after the incident. Mack also found it harder to find top-quality people who wanted to work for him. This hit to Mack’s reputation slowed the growth of the operation significantly and allowed his competitors to gain an advantage.
4. Own your online reviews
Admit it: The only time you provide online reviews is when you receive extremely good or bad service. The same is true of your customers and clients. They’ll likely only provide an online review on a service like Yelp if you do something amazing for them or make a terrible mistake.
While it’s almost impossible to control negative reviews, you can take steps to generate more positive ones to counter the bad ones.
Any time you or someone on your team provides stellar service or does a great job on a project, ask the client to write a review. Provide clear instructions on how they can do this. Most people today are aware of the value of reviews and will be willing to help you out.
Some firms go beyond this informal approach and implement a survey system. They send out an online poll and ask customers to use it to provide feedback at the end of every project. These surveys can be programmed to serve up a message at the end to people who have provided positive survey responses to write a review online. This is a proven way to generate more positive online reviews.
Case study: Casey’s electrical contracting company prides itself on going above and beyond on all building projects. However, the superior service wasn’t leading to a significant number of positive online reviews.
To remedy this, Casey decided to implement a post-job survey. He sent it to every client after each job was completed. He also implemented a rule within the survey that every person who provided extremely positive responses be served up a prompt to write an online review.
Not surprisingly, most of Casey’s surveys came back positive. He was pleased that about half the customers took the time to write reviews. When Casey asked his customers why they hadn’t written reviews prior to implementing the survey, most explained that they never thought of it. They said that they usually associated reviews with hotels, restaurants, and shops, not contracting businesses.
The lesson: If you want positive online reviews, you have to make it a point to ask for them.
5. Limit the “no’s”
There’s no surer way to hurt your firm’s reputation and drive business to your competitors than regularly telling clients you’re unable to take on their work.
Sometimes, the difference between doing a job and not is a little creativity, some good advice, and the right supplier. In many cases, electrical firms pass on work because they can’t find the right equipment off the shelf or don’t know how to fabricate novel components.
A knowledgeable electrical supply company can help by recommending options you might not be aware of. They’re also able to design and build custom components that can make even the most complex temporary power plans come alive at an affordable cost.
Case study: Lily, a contractor, never said “no” to a job. That is, until one day she was offered an opportunity to build components for a new housing development. The job required fast and efficient temporary power setups and takedowns. Unfortunately, Lily couldn’t come up with a way to make it all work out.
Before giving up, she contacted an experienced temporary power supplier. They recommended a setup that could work if Lily leveraged a customized portable power box on wheels. By adding a few unique elements to a standard inventory item, it could be transformed in minutes to meet the requirements of the project.
Because of her due diligence, Lily was able to keep her record in tact and didn’t say “no” to the job.
Tip: If you have to decline work because of staffing, scheduling, or other reasons, turn a loss into a win. Take control of the situation by recommending another resource to do the work. It will leave your customer with a positive impression and they’ll be more likely to come back to you next time they have a project. And who knows, the firm you recommend may send work your way.
Positive business reputations take years, or even decades, to build. You owe it to yourself and your business to do everything possible to preserve yours.