Is it true that “Any publicity is good publicity?” Surprisingly, a 2010 study showed that negative reviews can actually increase sales1. Before you go and do something silly, please note that this is an exception to the rule! Further, there were very specific circumstances that created this anomaly. Today we are going to look at reasons you should pay attention to building a good reputation. Next, we will look at practical tips you can implement immediately to protect your business’ reputation.
The role of emotions in buying decisions
“People buy with emotions, and justify it with logic.2” How people feel about your brand will have a greater effect on their buying decision than logical reasons. Think about it – why do people buy iPhones, even though they have slightly worse hardware? (FYI, I own an iPhone!). I believe a major reason is that Apple has successfully associated positive feelings about their brand. To quote Simon Sinek, “People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it3.”
Before you jump to the conclusion that this only applies to consumer products, imagine this scenario: You are about to finish a report when the phone rings. You answer it, and are greeted by a B2B salesman. He proceeds to pitch his product. You have never heard of his brand. The salesman doesn’t seem to care about your goals or challenges. How would this make you feel? Would it matter what he was selling? Your intuition would prompt you to say “no” without giving it another thought! You can protect your business’ reputation by understanding the role people’s emotions play in decision making.
Reputation = Brand = How people feel about your product
Your reputation is your brand. Further, when your clients look at your logo, it will immediately trigger certain feelings. Whether it is positive or negative will decide whether they will buy from you. This is why companies specialising in branding exist. Their skill is in creating an image for you that truly represents what you believe in, and therefore the emotional response in your clients.
What words and emotions come to your clients’ mind when they think about your brand? Do they resonate with your values? Before we look at practical tips for building your reputation, write down words and feelings that you want people to link with your business. For example, Coca Cola might represent happiness, fun, or parties. Further, Google could stand for speed, ease of use, and minimalism. What does your business stand for? Protect your business’ reputation by paying attention to how people feel about your brand.
Protect your business’ reputation tip #1: Conduct business consistently with your values
Almost every website will tout that they value integrity… But do they? To do business with integrity means being consistent in what you believe, say, and do. It means following ethics and morals, even when no one else will know. By repeating the behaviours that align with your values, your clients will build a corresponding psychological association with your brand.
For example, my wife recently bought a new Kindle from Amazon. The device had some problems with battery life, and so she called Amazon’s support. They offered to replace it, but what proceeded was very disappointing. The person promised to send my wife a paid return postage sticker. It never arrived. She attempted to contact Amazon via email, which promised 24-hour turnaround. To her dismay, my wife did not receive a response after 3 days. She called support again, only to be asked to put it in writing via email… Can you guess who we won’t be buying from next time we need an e-reader?
There were clearly issues with Amazon’s customer support system. In your business, you can minimise this type of problem by living out your values daily. In the words of Richard Branson, “If you take care of your employees, they will take care of the clients.” Recognise and reward core behaviours. Handle deviations firmly but sensitively. Further, find ways to create systems to measure the right behaviours. For example, you may consider using the Net Promoter Score. If you want to protect your business’ reputation, conduct your business with integrity.
Protect your business’ reputation tip #2: Walk the “extra mile”
In the above story, think about the trouble my wife had to go through to receive the replacement device. In our minds, the inconvenience stacked on top of the price of the product. Legally, Amazon was only obligated to replace the faulty product. However, if they wanted to redeem themselves, they would need to go over and above their obligations (hint: they didn’t!). They did say sorry, but they didn’t do anything to tangibly make up for the trouble.
By now I may have lowered your opinion of Amazon by sharing this story. Consider how this might have been different if they had walked the extra mile to help us. I may have told a completely different story for you. Then, their reputation for great service would be intact (even elevated!).
Everyone makes mistakes. At some point, your product is going to fail at meeting your client’s desires. Whether your reputation is dragged through the mud or put on a pedestal depends on how you handle it. How will you show your values to your clients when things go wrong? Resolve problems swiftly. Show genuine care. You may even consider giving free products, your time, or a gift voucher as a token of your remorse. When your clients are pleased, they’ll be sure to share the news!
Protect your business’ reputation tip #3: Handle negative publicity with humility
Even if you have great service, “haters gonna hate.” Bad reviews, real or not, will affect your online reputation. How should you handle them, if at all?
My first tip in handling negative reviews is to take ownership. Denying the issue or implying that the person is wrong is a recipe for trouble. Readers will interpret denial as immature and irresponsible. You may consider the following response:
“Thank you for voicing your concern; I appreciate your honesty and feedback.”
Secondly, avoid giving excuses. Mind you, this is different from giving reasons. Excuses abdicate responsibility, reasons accept it. Your reply may sound like this:
“We are currently experiencing technical problems, and are working to resolve it ASAP”
You’ll notice that in this sentence, there is also an explanation of what is being done to rectify the problem!
Finally, take the issue offline. Words read on a screen will never communicate your tone of voice, sincerity, or intent as well as a voice over the phone can. Further, if the person is being unreasonable, could be embarrassing to allow the public to see the exchange. Simply request their details and contact them as quickly as possible.
Protect your business’ reputation: Conclusion
Your brand and reputation are one and the same. How people feel about it will heavily influence whether they do business with you. To improve your reputation, you must first define your values and what you stand for. Next, conduct your business in a way that is consistent with your beliefs. When things go wrong, walk the extra mile to make your clients happy. Finally, if you answer negative publicity with humility, you can turn unhappy clients into promoters!
1 Positive Effects of Negative Publicity: When Negative Reviews Increase Sales; Berger, Sorensen, Rasmussen; Marketing Science. October 2010, Vol. 29, Issue 5, Pages 815-827
2 How Emotions Influence What We Buy; Peter Noel Murray Ph.D.; 2013
3 Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action; Simon Sinek; 2009
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