It’s a terrifying reality that no business owner would ever like to face – a reputation that seems to have been dragged backward through the mud a dozen times over. Justified or otherwise, nothing represents a bleaker outlook for a business than a reputation that’s been done some serious damage. Once the punters have enough reason to believe you’re dodgy – even through word of mouth from those they’ve never met – chances are you might be toast.
That being said, nip the problem in the bud early enough and you’ve a fighting chance of getting back to the top. You’ll of course need to strike up the right contract with the right marketing companies to make sure you can be seen, but in terms of taking back control of your reputation, it’s a more hands-on job than most would think.
Find the Damage
First up, you cannot be expected to fix the damage unless you first find out where it is. The web is big and complex to say the least – have you the time to search a few billion pages top to bottom? Of course not, so you need to invest in some decent reputation management tools that do the searching for you. Use a good package to scour the web and see what’s what – this is a great way of seeing any recurring themes that may well point to genuine holes in your performance.
Logistically speaking, chances are you won’t be able to look in detail at each and every negative item of feedback against you in order to assess which are fair, which are bogus and which are debatable matters of opinion. However, if it turns out that all or most point to a single employee, an element of your service process, a specific product or anything else that can be singled out, take the time to verify the problem. Or in other words, put yourself in the shoes of your target audience members and have a look from their perspective – you’ll soon see what’s wrong, if it is.
Once you have the feedback in front of you, the time comes to respond to it. Depending how much time has passed and how bad the damage is, you might have little to no chance of contacting each and every individual concerned with a unique response. However, you can certainly make the effort to address the most recent negative entries as these have massively more influence than those penned months or years ago. Whether it’s directly to the person with a set-format email, a comment under the review to indicate acknowledgement or anything else across the board, once it’s been made clear that you’ve listened, there’s a good chance your audience will do the same.
If there’s a ton of negative feedback, it can’t all be fake and unfair, can it? As such, the next step is to accept where you’ve gone wrong and be as brutal as you need to be in correcting it. If your product is garbage, take it back to the drawing board. If your staff are useless, fire them. Whatever it takes to be able to come forward and say “We have listened, look at the new us!” as this is what you are aiming at to get your reputation back in line. There are times when this will mean making no more than a few minor changes that add up to a big difference, though in others you could be looking at serious changes. In either case, what has to be done has to be done…soon.
Next up, once you’re confident enough that the same mistakes won’t be made again, reach out to those that weren’t happy with you and invite them to try the new you. As soon as you know what it was that wasn’t pleasing the punters the first time around, you have technically all the information you need to make sure you do the exact opposite this time. Win them over and chances are they’ll be more than willing to adjust their feedback or sing your praises, which will do your reputation more good than anything on Earth you yourself could ever possibly script or pay for.
Learn and Grow
Last up, learning from the mistakes you’ve made in the past means not just accepting that things went wrong, but also doing everything you possibly can to grow and prosper as a result. Business shouldn’t have to be a trial and error process in an ideal situation, but where errors occur, there’s room for growth and prosperity.