Why your reputation is one of your most important assets

Managing your businesses reputation can be tough for new business leaders, but managing expectations and reputation is important.

Building a business from scratch involves countless hours of work, lost sleep, a ton of stress, and a lot of sweat. You did your best to make it work, you negotiated the best possible prices with your suppliers, and did your best to keep your customers satisfied. But when you finally feel like everything is on the right track, the orders start to slow, the emails stop coming, and your sales start to dwindle. You don’t understand at first what’s going on – until you find out that your reputation has been ruined by a series of negative reviews online. With so many people using the internet to seek information, this has become a very important issue that has to be taken into account – and seriously.

Some businesses are more affected than others

A business’s reputation over the internet is especially important when said business is an online service – like an online casino, for example. This is the best example, as it can only promote its services through affiliate marketing and word of mouth, with most other online advertising methods off limits for them. Today’s online casinos go to great lengths to improve their reputation. They not only offer safe and secure transactions and non-stop customer support but they also seek out the places customers are likely to complain about them and keep in touch with them all the time.

Members of the Vegas Palms customer support staff are, for example, constantly with one eye on the most reputable online casino portals. And when a negative review appears, they react – they personally investigate the respective Vegas Palms member’s complaint and see that it is taken care of in a satisfactory fashion for both parties. Other similar venues have repeatedly failed to respond to such complaints, building a negative reputation, and ultimately disappearing from the business (or being bought up by more serious players on the market).

What information do customers look for online?

Let’s be honest – TV and radio ads, flyers, catalogs, and social media are not the perfect way to convince the customer that you can be trusted. These are merely methods to let them know that you exist. Trust is built either on personal experience or on recommendations from trustworthy persons, like friends, and family, without the shadow of doubt cast on the promotional nature of the recommendation. People tend to trust negative reviews because they don’t suspect them to be paid for, and will most likely disconsider five-star ones for the same reason.

Ultimately, customers want to be confident about their choice of buying from or working with you. And negative reviews online can shake this confidence, often prompting them to think again or choose a competitor.

What can I do to improve my reviews?

First and foremost, recognise the importance of your online reputation. With so many potential customers relying on the internet to seek information, you simply can’t ignore your reputation online. Make sure to keep an eye on it, and handle negative reviews as soon as they appear.

Next, be sure to encourage your satisfied customers to rate and review your services. Most of the times, satisfied customers stay silent, and only those with a negative experience feel the urge to share it with the world. Encouraging your customers to rate and review your product and service will not only improve your online reputation but can even point out some flaws and issues you’ve overlooked.

Being responsive – as described above – is very important as well. Don’t just sit there bummed by a negative review – reach out to the customer and try to find a way to solve the issue at hand. Be honest and open about the guilt you have – and make sure to point it out when the customer is not right but do so in a conciliatory tone. Don’t ever make your customer feel disconsidered or stupid – this will result in you losing them. Instead, do whatever you can to make things right – but be reasonable. This will show the world that you are serious about customer satisfaction but you don’t give in to blackmail either.

Reputational damage a higher priority than fines for UK businesses

A study by ICSA: The Governance Institute and The Core Partnership revealed a shift in how businesses view what is most damaging to their success. Of those surveyed, 61 per cent said damage to their business reputation would definitely be more of a deterrent. Only 5 per cent said ‘no’.

Despite this fear of reputational damage, not all companies consider that their working relationship would be affected if a company they worked with had connections to one revealed to be involved in the Panama Papers leak, with only 8 per cent saying that their working relationship would not be affected.

The Core Partnership polls the views of company secretaries, who have privileged insight into the boardroom, with regular monthly surveys in conjunction with ICSA, the professional body for governance. This poll, which was carried out shortly after the story of the Mossack Fonseca leak broke, found that there is a general feeling that culture is both the cause and the solution for business reputation.

Due diligence and knowing their customers can only go so far in terms of helping companies to ensure that they know exactly who they are involved with all the way down their business chains.

Related: Reputation tops list of business priorities

“The line seems to have blurred between people’s understanding of tax avoidance, which is legal, and tax evasion which is not,” says Peter Swabey, Policy and Research Director at ICSA: The Governance Institute. “From a governance perspective, companies should always work within the law, but certain situations require a bit of additional soul searching in terms of what the right thing to do is as opposed to what is purely legal. What is morally acceptable can change over time and may differ according to sector, but the governance litmus test should always be ‘Is what we are proposing the right thing to do?’ It comes down to the culture and values of an organisation, but educating people to obey the spirit rather than the letter of the law needs to start early in life.”

Owen Gough

Owen Gough

Owen Gough is a reporter for SmallBusiness.co.uk. He has a background in small business marketing strategies and is responsible for writing content on subjects ranging from small business finance to technology...

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