Now that it takes potential customers just a few seconds to find out the basics of your business, reputation management is essential. Think about it. You’re deciding on a restaurant while on holiday, so you search online for some options. You’re hardly likely to choose a restaurant with a low rating on TripAdvisor if there’s another just around the corner that’s highly rated. In fact, 92% of consumers look at online reviews.

Local builders’ merchants and hardware stores shouldn’t only concern themselves with their online reputation. The nature of the sector means that plenty of your trade is determined by word of mouth recommendations and referrals from trade customers. In today’s blog post, we examine the small measures companies can take to improve their reputation: both offline and online.

It all starts with customer service

Before we launch into the list, we have to start off by saying that no amount of reputation management will be able to offset atrocious customer service. There’s no doubting that good customer service helps set the foundation of your reputation.

#1 Value your staff

If your staff enjoy working for your business and believe that they’re able to offer customers high quality products that solve their problems, they’re very likely to act as brand ambassadors. They’ll often recommend your store to friends and family members if a related topic crops up in conversation.

#2 Sponsor or partake in community events

Local events won’t cost much to sponsor or take part in, particularly when compared with the cost of bigger trade events and advertising campaigns. The benefits can be vast, particularly if your business thrives on local trade: you’ll gain valuable networking opportunities, local press coverage, goodwill from the community, and an increase in brand awareness amongst local people.

#3 Go the extra mile

We all love stories about businesses going the extra mile or their customers. Whether it’s delivering items in record time to ensure an event can go ahead or helping out a passer-by without being prompted. These opportunities don’t come around often, but by giving your staff some degree of flexibility in how they complete tasks you’ll be well-placed to take advantage of them. These exceptional customer service events generate word of mouth buzz and perhaps even some press.

#4 Take your customer service online

Apply the same standard of customer service online as you would expect offline. Solve customer problems and answer queries promptly. Keep your website and/or social media pages up-to-date with contact details and opening times. Also consider using an FAQ section on your website if you find yourselves answering the same questions over and over.

#5 Respond to negative reviews

Negative online reviews can be hugely damaging to your business. Instead of deleting them or asking  for them to be removed, respond. Learn how to deal with social media concerns and complaints in an effective way.  You may even turn dissatisfied customers into brand ambassadors.

#6 Ask for customer and employee feedback – and respond to it

Feedback from customers is almost always valuable – you can learn a great deal about what’s holding your business back or working well. However, you should also speak to staff about the business. Do they think systems need changing? Are there any common customer queries that they aren’t equipped to deal with?

It’s not enough to listen to feedback – you also need to respond to it, and change processes on the back of it. That doesn’t mean acting on every suggestion made by customers. Instead, take time to weigh up the value of feedback and genuinely consider if it’s valid and actionable.

Managing your company’s reputation shouldn’t mean hiding negative feedback and covering up complaints. Instead, you should strive to create positive buzz for your business and respond to complaints fairly and promptly.