In the service industry, vigorous competition exists between businesses. To compete, a company must pay close attention to economic stability, scaling opportunities, and protecting its reputation online. Strategies for revenue and growth differ from reputation in that an excellent product speaks for itself. Reputation, though, can suffer through no wrongdoing of your company.
Before business owners even know they have been targeted, the damage from a viral hoax has been done. The only decision a business can make today is to implement a reputation management strategy and monitor internet chatter for alerts to negative publicity. Service-based enterprises must have procedures in place to minimize the damage, or they will suffer the consequences of their inability to act.
The Age of Viral Hoaxes
One of the most memorable hoaxes came after Anna Ayala fraudulently claimed to have found a finger in her chili at her neighborhood Wendy’s restaurant. The claim instantaneously went viral, and she went on several national shows to speak about her experience. Wendy’s was slow to react, and it took a few days to calm consumers with the knowledge that the finger did not come from an employee or vendor.
As a result, Wendy’s lost an estimated $21 million in sales. Some stores reported as much as a 50% decline in customers which led to a downscale in personnel. Consumers initially did not know Ayala had a history of filing fraudulent claims. The media also reported the finger was fully cooked which seemed to validate her claim. It took some time to confirm that those claims were incorrect and that Ayala had placed the finger in the container herself.
- Consistent Voice Branding: Having a tagline is fine, but when businesses use idioms or boardroom lingo, consumers become uninterested in the message. A company that promotes a likable personality can quickly build a reputation. An entity that has been able to do that is Boston-based Boloco. As a burrito maker, they compete daily for customers, but they also go beyond that by marketing their reputation on and offline.
After partnering with Life is Good, they donated fifty cents for each sale of their coined Life is Good burrito. By thinking about a partnership, they defined their voice and branding by connecting their food service to community social responsibility. They identified their target audience, and they offered them an incentive for dining with them.
- Structure an Online Presence: Most people rely on social media platforms to structure online reputations. But, those outlets are limited in their abilities, and advertising can be pricey. Your company should maintain its own website and domain so that you have control over the information you release.
There are a variety of free websites like WordPress that enables you to build a layout that is visually pleasing and user-friendly. You could also consider paying a monthly fee for a host like SiteGround if you need more space for images or videos. If you feel that you lack the technical knowledge to build a website, each site offers self-help tutorials to walk you through the steps.
- Publish Consistently to Build Authority: The worst decision a site owner can do is forget to engage regularly with users. If you lack consistency in posting articles, videos, or even short posts, customers will find that you are unreliable. The more you engage with consumers, the more loyal they will feel about your brand. You should post on your blog at least once a week. Post short comments or advertisements on social media daily. It is up to you as to the time you devote to building your online authority, but do not be surprised if another company attracts them in your absence.
- Be Proactive in Reputation Control: As you build your reputation, you will need to monitor any activity for possible problems. The easiest way to accomplish this is to sign up for Google Alerts. Areas you might look at include the name of your company, the industry you serve, or even your most popular services. A service alert provides leads to other companies whose reputation has suffered. Be sure to respond positively and promote your brand in the best light possible!
- Engage and Reply to your Customers: Using your time online to monitor reactions or elicit feedback helps you make decisions about the future of your company. Customers like to know you are listening to their wants and needs! Respond to each comment to acknowledge them. When people reply, engage with them by providing links, advice, or just a word of thanks. The more you show your knowledge about the service you provide, the more significant your authority and brand identity will become.
- Avoid the Fake Review Scandal: Some companies feel it is essential to provide reviews right away. So, they ask friends or family to write a quick testimonial. This practice, however, can backfire if someone who knows you calls you out. In an instant, your reputation can go from one of authority to a trickster which serves as a reminder as to the importance of reputation in business. If you want to legitimize your services, simply ask a few of your clients to write a review. You would be surprised at how many of them are willing to help your business succeed!
- Incorporate a Feedback Quality Control System: If you do not know what consumers want, you cannot fill the void. Check with your helpdesk provider to install an autoresponse Additionally, it helps you collect data that tracks positive and negative policies and procedures that enable you to improve your revenue, growth, and reputation status.
- Avoid Negativity: It is in our human nature to react to criticism negatively. In business, it can be the very thing that damages your reputation. Think smart even when you know a customer is wrong. Instead of replying with a snarky comment about their shortcomings, respond with a simple message that addresses how they feel. Provide as much help as you can. When you receive a bad review, take it as a challenge to improve upon your services. If you show that you understand the issue, and you work to resolve it, that willingness to go the extra mile will resonate with customers.
- Show up to Live Events: An excellent way to put a face to your brand is to show up at live events and represent your business well. Talk to consumers about your goals and values. Let them know your interest in scaling services. The more you know your audience, the better prepared you are to grow as their needs do. If you find that you want to try out a new business idea, do not hesitate to host your own event as well.
Keep in mind that you have a customer base that you want to entice. If you take the time to know their needs, you can work to satisfy them. There will always be issues that arise, so decide what works best in responding to them. As you define your brand’s identity, you will find it easy to engage with your target audience while also looking at ways to appeal to others.