Customer Service

Part 1: Obsess About Your Reputation

This is part 1 in a 5 part series: Big Picture Ideas for Small Businesses.

Your reputation is one of the most critical aspects of your business. It’s what lends credibility to your marketing, weight and value to your product, and it provides status in competitive industries.

Maintaining a good reputation sounds really easy. After all, shouldn’t providing good service, good support, and having a lively presence in your industry be enough to keep your company in the good graces of consumers? Perhaps it should, but as always, reality is a bit more complicated. Here are a few tips designed to make managing your company’s identity online more efficient.

1. You Need to Try

Having a presence on Twitter and Googling your company’s name twice a day will not do much in the long term to keep you afloat. You have to look at the experiences of your clients and customers in order to get a better idea. Elicit feedback wherever possible (more on that in an upcoming post) and make sure all of your promises, whether they be features in a product or a verbal agreement to a client or colleague, are actionable. Nothing ruins a relationship more than a broken promise.

2. Turn Repeat Customers into Something More

Having a repeat customer is great, but it’s not special. Remember, that’s what is supposed to happen. Celebrating small victories is ok, but focusing your energy on turning repeat customers into mavens or promoters is far more valuable. Having a great product is fantastic, but having a great customer who helps you sell your great product is even better.

Affiliate programs can help by offering a financial incentive while healthy referral rates can entice customers into bringing in friends and colleagues. However, the most important part of utilizing loyal customers is simply having a robust product line at a good price.

3. Don’t Feed the Trolls, But…

A few years ago, a negative blogpost could, in most cases, be easily ignored. But today, in a world of real time news, where people make money on the aggregation of information, less-honest folks could easily turn negative stories about your business into their business model.

It’s up to you to pick your battles. You have to be able to distinguish between situations that deserve the time needed to make things right from classic internet trolling. As a rule of thumb, never embroil yourself or your company into a flame war online. You will never win that fight as your opponent does not need to be fair or civil.

However, you can’t ignore published negativity either. If there is truth to a particular situation, you now have a public way to turn a bad experience into a good one, to repair the relationship between this customer and your company. This can be very useful feedback.

If a negative situation is posted in an area where your company has a consistent presence, say an influential forum or blog, you may want to consider clarifying your company’s stance publicly if the charges are particularly egregious.

This kind of situation, as with any communication online, should be carefully considered. Remember that these stories are indexed by search engines, posted to high traffic link farm blogs, and are repeatedly regurgitated by traffic machines all over the web…it’s very easy to lose control of your image this way. You can’t always ignore these charges, but you don’t want to validate trolls either.

4. Get Involved

Better Business Bureau, Chambers of Commerce, Boards of Trade, and even larger industry trade organizations can all be valuable assets to your company. Being seen, and understood, as a local information resource is just as important as getting new business. If you’re the guy or gal your neighbors can count on, then they might be more willing to drop your company’s name the next time they shuffle through their rolodex.

What do you think? How do you manage the reputation of you and your business? Let us know in the comments, on Facebook, or on Twitter/Friendfeed!

Stay tuned to The ServInt Source for our next tip, Don’t Cheapen Your Product, soon!

Photo by floeschie

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