Every business, during the course of development or growth, runs the risk of incurring a bad reputation. And depending on how the reputation is managed, this could either stunt or accelerate the growth of the business. This post, using case studies where relevant, will look at the potential causes of bad reputations for businesses and a couple of ways to address them, respectively.
Causes of a bad reputation:
1) Bad experience:
This is one of the most common causes of damage to a business reputation. This is because all businesses deal with people/customers to make money. And one or more of these customers, due to a misunderstanding, poor service, or just being a disgruntled customer, is bound to view the business from a negative perspective. Some of the customers will take it further by sharing their perspectives on social media, thus spreading the word to tens of thousands if not millions of people. This a process that usually ends up shaming the business virally on social media.
2) Taking on more than one can chew.
Yes, most business owners want to gain exposure and grow at a pace faster than they can deliver their service. And they do this by investing heavily in marketing and advertisement. Being unable to deliver as promised has been noted as a recipe for disaster that always ends up with many companies developing bad reputations. This was the case of a small web design company. Read part of the story below that denotes the negative impact of overpromising and under delivering:
Louis Camassa, a 20-year MarTech professional who's led two companies to seven-figure acquisitions:
'We were a small web design agency who invested heavily in marketing and sales. Sadly, we couldn't keep up with demand, and our ability to produce amazing designs was outpaced by our ability to sell. Many clients were oversold and their projects under-delivered. And this led to some people posting bad reviews about our company online.'
3) Previous reputation
A company's previous owner(s) may have, through their actions and work ethics, given the company a bad reputation. Sometimes they unable to fix the businesses reputation so decide to sell it to some sucker (I mean person). This is why it is always pertinent to do one's research and due diligence before buying an existing company. You do not want to end up with egg on your face for having bought a liability. This is because most folks would sell their companies due to their inability to clean up the company's bad reputation, which could have been affecting profit from the company. Here is a practical story related to this situation.
Linda Wilson, a self-employed and business-driven professional:
'I bought a small village convenience store in Glasson Dock, just over 2 years ago. It was the only shop for 6 miles in any direction and ought to have been a small goldmine. It's in a rural/coastal area, with an elderly population who don't like leaving the village unnecessarily and dock workers who only have short breaks, and so, don't have the time to leave the village.
The shop was run down when I took it over: it had very little stock, and very few regular customers. By the end of the first month, I felt sure the business would soon collapse because of lack of local support. It transpired that the previous owner had offended people; only provided poor quality goods; and had been extremely unreliable in terms of regular opening hours. And this really gave the shop a nasty reputation."
How to fix a bad reputation
Your company has been hit with a bad reputation, how do you go about fixing it?
1) Start by searching for your business on major search engines like Google and Bing to identify any negative press that it may be getting.
2) Own the mistake whether it is your fault or not. Be quick to apologize to your customers. Remember that a happy customer tells five fans, and an unhappy customer tells 10. A fan who has issues resolved tells 20. This is a great way to build super fans.
3) Try and rank positive messages about your company on page one of Google, pushing other negative reviews away from page one. You can hire professionals on many freelancer websites like Fiver to help with it. One can also do this by establishing all of one's social profiles on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest and Instagram as they do have ranking power to help push the negative comments further from page 1. Also, publish great content. You could source freelancers on Fiver to help with writing if you can't write well. All of these should help rank your important pages.
4) Reach out to happy customers, influencers, suppliers, and even the local news to generate some positive press for Google to show. You may also consider some great press releases.
5) Use the same medium(s) that was used to tarnish your reputation to explain the issue. Again, admit your mistake and state the steps taken to address it. Be sure not to pass blame to the customer. Louis Camassa used the same technique to reply a bad reviewer, stating that they 'had no record of the reviewer, and secondly, admitting that they made mistakes but learned and changed for the better.'
6) Invest in fresh talents through a reputable company: You may want to invest in talents that are current with what is applicable, functional and effective in the sector. And that is what Louis Camassa did. They brought in a technical sales person, into each meeting, to clarify expectations from the start.
7) Reorganize the business from the perspective of the customer. Put yourself in customer shoes and think about how the customers would react if a certain action was taken. This approach has been known to lessen customer service costs, empower employees and most importantly, restores public reputation.
8) Ask the existing customers what the would like to see improved upon and do it. This what Linda Wilson did: She changed the perception of her business by the consistently great service that she provided. This implied that her business is here to serve, and as such, positive words began spreading and gradually more locals began visiting her store.
9) Reward existing and loyal customers. Philanthropy and public giving could go a long way toward fixing a bad reputation as it could make both the new and old customers see you in a more trustworthy and positive light. Also, learn to reimburse for any bad service or product with no questions asked.
10) Learn from your mistakes and solve as many problems as you can that relates to the cause of the bad reputation. If not, it could seriously damage your potential for acquiring new customers. Use any criticism or feedback to build a better and more effective structured service and customer acquisition mousetrap.
11) Be consistent and patient as building a good reputation does not happen overnight, and repairing a bad one takes longer.
The reason(s) for a business bad reputation, sometimes, could stem from the owner. Maybe due to a loss of health, bad management, and decision making or perhaps a decline in passion for the job. If that be the case, then you may consider quitting or selling the business to a more passionate or/and capable hand. However, if you are truly passionate about your business and are interested in restoring its business reputation, having done all the above, then, as previously stated, give it some time. The business should begin to slowly build back trust from the public.