Your business reputation includes everything from your corporate and social responsibility, to the trustworthiness of your sales and delivery people.
It can also be the most difficult asset to protect because it’s intangible.
You work to build it every day, yet it can crumble with one blunder – that you might not even see coming. Your potential loss of income can be huge, and much more important in the long run than the loss of physical assets.
How can this happen?
- Do your customers or suppliers have unclear expectations? If your delivery or payment is late and your service rep waffles, you’re seen as CYA.
- What if you miss an important deadline when someone is sick, and you’ve got no plan and don’t communicate? There go the referrals!
- Have you ever taken on too much work and can’t return calls or keep an appointment? All of a sudden you’re unreliable.
- What if you accept a complex job you’ve never done before and your customer is disappointed in quality, timeliness, or cost? Now you’re a windbag and not to be trusted.
Where is that ounce of prevention?
It’s right here – just do the opposite of the examples above!
- Document and share your discussions, notes, and expectations with customers, clients, and suppliers.
- Prepare contingency plans, perhaps cross training, and communication messages in advance and be ready to recover.
- Don’t be afraid to say “No.” Or, “No, thank you.” Or, “No, not now.” If you can give a suggestion or a referral to another expert, that’s worth extra points!
- Be very cautious about what you can and cannot do well. Get help early or refer your customer to someone else.
Prevention is an essential investment in your reputation.
The outcome will be worth far more than you’ll ever spend. Studies show it costs $6 to $10 to fix a problem or a loss, that $1 would have prevented.
Of course, prevention is not a one-time thing: it’s like a salve that needs to be applied continuously. The good news is the positive improvements are cumulative!
- Protecting your reputation starts with careful communication. Make sure you under promise (for quality, quantity, and time) and over-deliver.
- Encourage feedback and welcome criticism – early and often. They won’t tell you if you don’t ask.
- Make things right quickly: if a customer is unhappy, find out what they would like done, and if at all possible, do it immediately. Fix it or refund it!
- Talk to your clients and employees about how important reputation is to you and to the future of the business. If they have your ear and are treated fairly, they’ll be happy to help you preserve it.
Finally, create a simple crisis management plan so you and your team have guidelines and a checklist for when something goes seriously wrong and no one can think straight.