Expanding your business requires long-term, intense commitment. Not only are you committing to more work, but you’re also committing to take on more debt, more risk, and higher expenses. You’re also expanding your reach in your industry, which puts you at risk for criticism and complaints on a frequent basis.
As a small operation, a few complaints here and there aren’t a big deal. However, when you expand your business, you’ll gather complaints rather quickly. With enough complaints, your reputation can suffer.
When expanding your business, you can’t rely on the reputation management strategy you built for a small business. Your reputation management strategy needs to grow with your expansion.
Cover the basics of expansion first
Having a strong reputation management strategy is top priority, but make sure you cover the basics first. Take the time to create a solid foundation so your business expansion succeeds long-term. If you don’t, and your business flops, your reputation could be lost forever.
To start, you’ll need a financial plan for expansion, which will likely include taking out another business loan. When you get approved for your expansion loan, you’ll want to be extra conservative with your spending—even more than you were with your first loan.
Once you have expansion capital and you know the market will support your expansion, it’s time to revisit your reputation management strategy.
Find the holes in your existing reputation management strategy
Knowing where your existing strategy falls short is critical for strengthening your overall strategy. If you don’t have a strategy yet, you’ve got the advantage of starting fresh and using this article as your guide to create a strong strategy from the ground up.
The first thing to do is find the areas where your reputation suffers and analyze the problem. Make a list of all the places online where your brand is discussed, either with or without your participation. For example, your list might include:
- Google Places
- An industry-specific discussion forum
- The BBB
If you have any unresolved issues with customers on any internet platform, there’s a hole in your reputation management strategy.
With a strong, effective strategy in place, you should be able to say that you’ve resolved, made the effort to resolve, or plan to resolve every customer issue you can find.
Create a plan to fix each hole you discover
For each hole you discover, you need a plan of action. For instance, for each platform that has unresolved complaints, you need a plan for responding to customers to resolve their issues. Ignoring complaints will deter potential customers. According to statistics published by Forbes, 90 percent of people read online reviews before doing business with an organization.
You also need a plan for pinpointing the source of the problem. Is there a manufacturing defect? Does damage occur during shipping? Is your product misrepresented in the product description? Is the problem user error?
Resolve customer complaints to their satisfaction
Not taking customer complaints personally is the key to resolving their problems effectively. Take the approach that you want to find out what went wrong and offer solutions until the customer feels you’ve made things right. There are some circumstances where customers are obviously at fault for the problem. You’ll need to use your judgment regarding refunds and returns.
Not all customers will want a refund. Always ask what the customer would like you to do. Would they like a refund? Would they like an exchange? Would they like to try a different model? Would they like you to inform your design team of a flaw they noticed?
Make things right according to what the customer values and they’ll have major respect for your business. That respect will be reflected in what they say about you online and to their friends.
Reputation management begins with customer satisfaction
Responding to and resolving customer complaints will give you far more control over your reputation than you ever dreamed possible. After making things right, you’ll discover that many customers will edit their negative reviews at your request. Some will even write new reviews, pointing out the lengths you went to make up for the problem they experienced.
When your business expands, expect an equal rise in the number of reviews you get online. Prepare to manage your reputation on a larger scale. If the task seems overwhelming, hire a professional reputation management company and you can’t go wrong.