Have you ever stared into a rearview mirror and seen two reflections? If you’ve ever driven at night, you might understand. Who hasn’t driven down a dark road with a car behind them that has extremely bright lights or high beams? To prevent night blindness, you tap or move the rearview mirror down. Yet the faint outline of a reflection of the car’s headlights remains. It’s not as bright, that’s for sure, but it’s there.
The Science behind this phenomenon is simple. It’s because there is a reflection from the layer of aluminum that lines the back of the mirror, as well as a faint reflection from the glass itself.
Reputations can be like those two reflections. One reflection represents the declared values of an entrepreneur, and the other reflection represents how clients perceive those values. The trick is to align both reflections to form a clear union of an entrepreneur’s vision, purpose, and values with customer’s perceptions.
When there is a direct alignment of these two distinctive reflections or perceptions, the values an organization demonstrates to the world, and the values the public, partners, and clients see, it creates trust. Business owners can now work from a solid position, expanding their brand and testing emerging markets.
And at times, aligning customers’ perceptions with your organization’s values can feel like walking a high wire across the Colorado River. (Did I mention the wire stretched the Grand Canyon?) In-between a business’s public persona and gaining customer trust are the reviews, the feedback, and the social media interactions that need timely attention and action.
It’s a world open 24/7, where negative news travels faster than the speed of light. So, how do you handle the reputation of your business without jeopardizing its brand, alienating your clients, or losing market focus? Here are a few things you can do as a business owner to stay ahead of the negativity and keep your reputation intact.
Online Business Reputation Services Can Hide Issues that Need Attention
If a Yelp review or customer feedback is negative, a wise entrepreneur will address issues directly rather than hire a company to bury or remove them entirely. If you think about it, each interaction, whether positive or negative, are opportunities to bring the focus back to the values behind a brand or reveal its hidden strengths.
Avoiding negative reviews or feedback can result in overlooking a broader problem or incorrectly assessing an issue. For instance, it might foreshadow persistent untimely deliveries or hide scheduling conflicts due to software glitches. Addressing the negative review publicly, such as stating awareness of the issue with positive customer engagement and proactive correction, means building credibility for your reputation and increased customer trust. It doesn’t happen overnight; it takes practice. But done consistently, customers reward positive experiences with loyalty, positive reviews, and consistent, honest feedback. In the long term, it’s more cost-efficient to create a plan on how to handle negative press or reviews swiftly rather than letting it linger in a questionable state.
Be Positive; Earn that Stellar Reputation by Addressing the Negative
If you’ve witnessed negative publicity or been a victim of public shaming directly, you know first-hand that merely reacting to the negativity with more negativity is like throwing gasoline onto a spark of burning grass. A wise entrepreneur knows that responding with animosity only fuels the flames, or worse, increases your exposure to more bad press, ultimately jeopardizing your brand’s reputation. But by responding proactively with positive outreach to people, you build your reputation from a stronger position.
Think of it this way: Every interaction, whether positive or negative, with potential clients or business partners is an opportunity to demonstrate the positive values you and your business uphold. It’s a nudge towards a seamless alignment of your organization’s values with customers’ perceptions. Your audience knows who you are and understands your values. They also know your business is an extension of those values and are less likely to be negatively influenced by others.
Some professionals may try to convince you that the climate we currently live in is ripe with incivility and uncertainty, and playing defense is your only option. But reputation management is not the answer. Nor should your response be reactionary as in meeting hostility with more anger. Because their methods are becoming more transparent to more consumers in the form of fake positive reviews or the complete absence of bad reviews, using a reputation service screams that you and your business may have something to hide. And that’s a message you never want to send.
Negative Reviews are Golden Opportunities
Reputation services refuse to see what is right in front of them and that it’s far more advantageous to turn negativity about some aspect of your business into pure positivity. Refusal to see a negative review or comment as a golden opportunity to reveal the best of what your brand or business has to offer is a colossal waste.
We’re here to tell you that there is a better way. A wise entrepreneur needs to practice respect and take responsibility for their reputation. Behind every potential action or word expressed is an opportunity to convey your beliefs about customer service and, by extension, the values and mission of your business you practice every day.
Amplify the Good: Put Out a Press Release at Least Once a Month and Blog about Your Personal Experience as a Business Owner
Don’t become paralyzed by public negativity aimed at you, your business, or your brand. Instead, a wise entrepreneur realizes this opportunity can become the catalyst that launches a new product, broadens market reach, saves money, or taps into a totally new market.
Now, not every customer behind a negative review, comment, or feedback will want to work with you towards a respectful solution. That is their loss. But 99 percent of the time, customers just want you to acknowledge what went wrong and how you plan to make it right.
It’s to your advantage to show honest evidence that you’re addressing an issue rather than burying it like some dirty, shameful secret. Handled quickly and professionally, you can confidently face whatever it is, and in the process, enhance your reputation and gain the trust of both current and potential customers.
As a wise entrepreneur, you can take it a step further and make it a teachable or an “ah-ha” moment that you can share with budding business owners. Once the initial complaint is handled, there are still opportunities to turn anyone’s bad interaction into something more positive. With these actions, you align those two reflections into one; customers’ perceptions with your organization’s values. And ultimately, your reputation becomes the total honest reflection of who you are and merges with who your customers perceive you to be.
With authenticity, you can reveal and capitalize on that business flaw by blogging about what you did to correct the situation on your website, LinkedIn, or any other desirable platform for entrepreneurs. With an appropriate title, like “How customer complaints made me aware about some shortcoming in my business,” you reveal the compelling desire to create trusted relationships.
By honestly disclosing the necessary and corrective actions it takes to find a resolution to a customer problem, you strengthen your reputation as someone who does more than talk ‘the talk,’ you live your values in every possible way, and by extension, so does your business.
Another method to establishing a positive business reputation that reflects who you truly are is to place a press release with a free newswire agency like PR Newswire. A press release sharing a customer’s positive experience with your brand helps others who are considering your solutions. Reliable news that’s meaningful to your brand is one way to take action and build a solid reputation responsibly.
Customers’ Perception of You Is Your Responsibility
It may sound counter-productive, even downright scary, to put yourself and your business out there. But as long as you’re proactive about engaging with others publicly, your reputation becomes the single reflection of who you truly are. Taking any of the steps above gives you leverage. If you respond to issues consistently, prioritize customer relationships and actively work the best practices you’ve created for your business, it will be easier to handle any bumps that hurdle past you on the road to success.
Sylvia Burleigh, a content marketing writer with a degree in English has 20 years experience as a technical and content writer for companies, such as IBM, AT&T and Elsevier. Her clients include employment lawyers, digital marketers, HR consultants, dentists and small business owners.