Reputation Management
Written by: Ryan Flannagan
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Chapter 25: Reputation Management

“But what about the bad apples?” asked Carole.

“Which bad apples?” I asked.

“The ones who spoil the barrel. We all know one loud complainer can outweigh a dozen happy customers. What do we do when things go wrong?”

“You can’t please everybody,” added Chuck, “and that one guy who doesn’t want to be pleased can be louder than everybody else put together.”

“That’s true,” I said.

“So, what do you do about it? What do you do when you get that one howler on your social media page?”

“Well, the best plan is to do a lot of stuff before the howler shows up.”

“Why?”

“You set up your social media community like we talked about earlier. That transparency and authority means people will trust you when you respond. A lot of the time, your other happy customers will do the responding for you.”

“Okay. I can see that,” said Chuck

“And with that all set up, you can respond quickly and effectively to turn that bad apple into a better apple, or at least remove it from the barrel.”

Once upon a time I had a client who’d received one bad review on Google+. They didn’t do anything about that review because it was just one person with an axe to grind.

But that one person was one of only a few reviews on G+ about their business. That bad review caused his Google performance to tank, and it cost them tens of thousands in lost revenue.

If you need me to explain why your company’s reputation is important, you probably don’t yet know enough about business development to benefit from this book.

But what even competent and experience business owners don’t understand is how much more important reputation is now than in previous centuries. During the Bad Old Days, a company’s greater capacity for putting information out meant a dissatisfied customer had limited ability to hurt the bottom line.

Today, an average customer or almost-customer can lambaste you via social media and negative reviews. They have the potential reach of tens of thousands, and that’s assuming their comments aren’t funny enough or on-point enough to go viral. At the same time, more consumers use the web to research products, brands, and companies than at any other time in history.

Bottom line: Everybody who interacts with you is talking, and everybody who might buy from you is listening.

Obviously, it’s your job to prevent poisonous reports from entering the web by keeping everybody who comes into contact with your brand ecstatic. But modern business development requires more than not irritating your customers. You also have empowered your satisfied, ecstatic clients to share their experience via platforms like reviews, case studies, and even speaking engagements.

You need proactive reputation management.

What Is Proactive Reputation Management?

Proactive reputation management is exactly what it sounds like:

  • Proactive — taking decisive, direct, primary action towards accomplishing a goal
  • Reputation — impacting the words coming out of others’ mouths about your company
  • Management — directing the tone and content

Put it all together, and proactive reputation management is taking primary and direct action to manage the tone and content of what people say about your company on the web and in “real life.” You do this by encouraging and facilitating your customers to share their great experiences on third-party websites via a workflow that’s triggered just like your lead and sales pipelines.

This workflow can take a variety of specific paths, but generally follows the same basic steps:

  • You request a review
  • The customer leaves a review
  • You thank the customer for the review

Sometimes other steps are necessary. Depending on specific situations, these universal steps can look quite different from one another, but the basic structure is sound.

Reputation Management Workflows in Action

Your specific process for handling reputation management will be as unique as the lines on your palms. That said, most will fit into one of three basic workflows. Here’s how each works.

Quick and Easy

Your company just finished a contract for six months’ services for a local business.

Step One: You send a thank-you email including a link to your Google Reviews page, and a promise of a small free gift for leaving a review.

Step Two: The customer follows the link and leaves a four-star review with positive and detailed comments.

Step Three: You send the free gift along with a thank-you email for leaving the review.

Everything in this workflow goes smoothly because everything goes right.

The Way of the Nag

Your company just finished a contract for six months’ services for a local business.

Step One: You send a thank-you email including a link to your Google Reviews page, and a promise of a small free gift for leaving a review.

Step Two: Nothing happens.

Step Three: You send a second email with more effusive thanks and a more prominently displayed link, including the promise of that free gift.

Step Four: Nothing happens

Step Five: You send a third email with some notes about how important reviews are, and offering an upgraded gift for helping out.

Step Six: The customer responds to the bribery and leaves you a five-star review.

Step Seven: You send the free gift along with a thank-you card for leaving the review.

The important thing to note here is that your system already had steps three and five (and potentially seven, nine, eleven, and thirteen) in place and operating. When you make proactive reputation management part of your operations, it pays dividends. If you just leave it for the corners of your company’s time, this part of your business development will never get any real traction.

Hey, What Happened?

Your company just finished a contract for six months’ services for a local business.

Step One: You send a thank-you email including a link to your Google Reviews page, and a promise of a small free gift for leaving a review.

Step Two: The customer follows the link, leaving a two-star rating with no commentary.

Step Three: You send the free gift along with a thank-you card for leaving the review.

Step Four: The point of contact for that customer makes a personal phone call, asking what happened and how your company can make it right.

Step Five: You move forward with the customer to continue that relationship, making all reasonable adjustments necessary to delight them.

Step Six: You enter all of the customer’s concerns and complaints into your system for using the feedback to fine-tune your product, customer service, and branding.

 Customer complaints are some of your best tools for making your brand better. Your proactive reputation management helps you tap this valuable vein of information, and gives you the chance to turn that disgruntled customer into a delighted advocate by listening carefully and acting on what you’ve heard.

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