Brand reputation is everything in the digital age. Bad news travels fast via online reviews and social media. So, if someone has a bad experience with a business, word will soon get around.
But it’s not only customers’ comments that can sink a business’s reputation. There are plenty of examples of companies scoring own goals, too.
Most business owners know better than to admit their products are low-quality publicly. However, it is easier than you might have thought to damage the reputation of your business. Here are ten things that could damage your brand reputation beyond repair.
1. Profiteering from Disasters
The COVID-19 pandemic had a devastating effect on people’s lives, and there were initially shortages of some products in the stores. Some retail businesses did the right thing by restricting the number of items in short supply that each shopper could buy. Some companies, however, made the most of the shortages by inflating their prices. Arguably, all businesses had to do whatever was needed to survive the crisis. However, consumers are unlikely to forget the stores that were blatantly profiteering.
2. Taking a Stance on a Contentious Issue
Unless you are 100% certain of your customer base’s views, it is best to stay clear of politics and religion. There are always opposing views on sensitive issues. If you back one side of an argument, you will alienate customers who hold opposing views. The best policy is to steer clear of any issues that might be divisive.
3. Misleading Customers
Misleading customers will get you some very negative brand mentions. So, be sure that you meet any promises you make. The most basic way that you could be misleading customers is by overselling your products. Things like hidden conditions in warranties and guarantees of fast delivery that are not met will also anger customers. It is best to be up front and transparent with customers. If you are honest and set expectations at the right level, customers will continue to trust your brand.
4. Public Arguments with Customers
Arguing with customers online is a big no-no if you want to maintain your brand reputation. So, if you get a bad review or a negative comment on social media, take the discussion off-line. The best way to respond to negative comments is to thank the commenter for their feedback, apologize if you were in the wrong, and ask the individual to contact you directly. Even if you win a public argument with a customer, you will damage your reputation. Discrediting a customer will make your company appear aggressive and uncaring, and your customer might feel they have been publicly humiliated.
5. Expressing Personal Opinions on Public Platforms
Avoid using your branded social media accounts for personal use. If you want to engage with people on Twitter and Facebook personally, set up separate accounts, and remember to log out of your business accounts when you have finished making company posts and comments. If you inadvertently like or share something contentious on a business account, it will be forever associated with your brand.
6. Taking Customers for Granted
No one likes to be taken for granted. So, you must demonstrate that you care about and value your customers. Make customer service one of your top priorities and respond to both public and private customer complaints swiftly. People understand that all companies can make mistakes sometimes. But, if you fail to rectify or compensate for your errors, customers will not forgive you and likely to tell other people about their experiences.
7. Failing to Engage
People want their voices to be heard. So, try to avoid making your social media and other communication platforms one-way channels. If you all you do is post offers and advertisements, people will get bored and switch off. They will assume that your business doesn’t care about its customers. Engage with customers and respond personally to their comments. Avoid using template responses to emails and social media posts. Your customers are people, so show them that there are real people behind your brand who care.
8. Attacking the Competition
Publicly deriding the competition will not win you any fans and could land you in court. So, it is better to highlight your strengths rather than criticize your competitors. Attacking the competition will be seen in the same light as one individual insulting another, and personal attacks on individuals are unkind, unnecessary, and often driven by jealousy. Attacks on the competition will give your company a bad reputation and might provoke a retaliatory response that you are unable to counter.
9. Disrespecting Employees
If you don’t treat your workforce with respect, they will not respect your company. Sometimes disgruntled employees are inevitable. After all, no one is going to be happy about getting fired. But, if there is widespread discontentment in your workforce, word will get around, and it will damage your brand reputation. Modern consumers like to buy from ethical businesses. So, it is best to treat employees fairly and with respect. Likewise, it is also advisable to source products and services from similarly ethical vendors.
10. Not Thinking Before Speaking
Gerald Ratner’s prawn sandwich earring joke was funny and probably true. The Ratner’s jewelry chain did sell some very cheap items. However, the entrepreneur had not thought about his humorous speech’s potential ramifications should the content be made public. The value of the Ratner Group fell by £500 million immediately following that speech. So, think before you speak, and proof-read content for anything that might be damaging or misconstrued. One innocent mistake could have a devasting effect on the reputation of your business.
Brand reputation is a fragile thing that can be easily damaged by poor customer service, misleading customers, and ill-thought-out comments. Consumers have long memories, too, so it can take a long time to rebuild a damaged brand. And people are quick to share their thoughts about brands. So, it would be advisable to take every possible precaution to ensure that you protect your business’s good reputation.