12/17/2013 1:57:00 PM Managing Your Business Reputation
By: Dave Thomas SCORE Counselor
Question: Northern Arizona is noted for its tight small business communities and I was reminded of this when I had to let an employee go. Can SCORE give me some ideas on how best to manage my business reputation?
Answer: "Being aware of how others view us is critical to business success today and it starts with integrity," says Heidi McCarty owner of Customers First in Prescott Valley (www.CustomersFirstUS.com). "And, it's not just your integrity but that of the people who represent your business also.
"When you discover a mistake has been made," emphasizes McCarty, "it's important that you take responsibility. We all make mistakes, but facing this squarely with your customers will set you apart. Be the kind of person you would want to do business with; one whose handshake is as solid as a contract."
Warren Buffett summed it up pretty well. He said: "It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you'll do things differently."
McCarthy relates this local scenario. A woman had an appointment to have her hair done by a stylist who was also the salon owner. The woman was repeatedly left sitting in the chair with wet hair while the owner did such things as take an inordinate amount of time to make a selection of background music, deal with deliveries and other routine tasks when there were others who could have handled those duties. Needless to say the woman found a new stylist. Building personal and respectful relationships is critical in today's fast-paced world.
McCarty lists four ways to manage and strengthen our business reputations.
1. The first, and probably most important way, is never forget that customers are people and people like to feel special. Treat each client as unique to you and your business. Not only are they likely to continue to do business with you, they'll tell their friends. According to Nielsen, 77% of consumers are more likely to buy a new product when learning about it from friends or family. Never underestimate the power of referrals. "If you build a great experience, customers tell each other about that. Word of mouth is very powerful." - Jeff Bezos, CEO, Amazon.com.
2. Strive to improve your customer relations. Ask your customers what they think. We've all seen comment cards in restaurants and hotels. We're asked to complete a survey after talking with someone at a call center. So send a survey to your clients. Ask their opinions - 'what can I do better'? Make this easy on your customers and be sure to include a free-form answer space.
3. The third tool for reputation management is to listen with an open mind when people talk to you. This can be casually at the check-out counter or when a customer voices a compliment or a complaint directly. Learn what you can do better. EVERY employee is a customer service representative regardless of their job title, so encourage them to bring customer comments and concerns directly to you. And ... ask your employees opinions.
4. Monitor Social Media. People have always shared opinions with their friends and family. But today via Social Media we can reach thousands of people in a very short time. It's important to respond to both positive and negative comments in a timely manner. How do you know which Social Media channels your customers and clients frequent - ask them? Plus do a bit of research. Don't just assume your people are on the 'big three' (LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter). It is important for you to be where your customers are.
Eighty-one percent of U.S. online consumers' purchase decisions are influenced by their friends' social media posts versus 78 percent who are influenced by the posts of the brands they follow on social media. (Market Force)
Benjamin Franklin summed it up very well: "It takes many good deeds to build a good reputation, and only one bad one to lose it."
For help managing your business reputation contact your SCORE mentor. Don't have a mentor yet? SCORE provides FREE business mentors. Sign up for one today. Go to http://northernarizona.score.org. Questions? Call 928-778-7438 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org