Reputation Management: Choosing How to Respond to Complaints

For many businesses, seeing negative content for the first time in the form of a negative review or social media post can come as both a shock and an attack on a professional and personal level. While the knee-jerk response in situations such as these may be to push back at the complaint, the company’s reaction can quickly become a bigger reputation management problem than the original issue.

Here are three of the typical choices that businesses make in these situations that can either lead to a quick resolution or a problem that grows in magnitude:

  • Truth Versus Spin – Trying to spin events to evade responsibility for an issue that has surfaced can compound the original problem dramatically by adding a layer of duplicity. In the vast majority of situations, customers who are treated with respect and feel that the business has their best interests at heart will understand and forgive most problems that arise. On the other hand, the loss of the trust from customers is much harder to reverse, so avoid spinning problematic events and instead be truthful about what happened, be accountable, and seek to fix problems as quickly as possible.
  • Objectivity versus Subjectivity – Businesses, many of them highly successful, are often built and operated in an environment of passionate zeal where the belief is that the company can do no wrong as it pursues its objectives. While this belief may permeate through every level of the company’s workforce and deliver a variety of benefits, this subjective bias can work against the company in terms of reputation management initiatives. For example, this type of subjective bias is often the root cause of responses to complaints that attack or put the blame squarely on the shoulders of the customer. Adding a dash of arrogance to these types of responses can quickly turn a containable issue into something far more problematic. Instead, taking an objective approach and listening to the context of customer complaints to determine a satisfactory outcome, as difficult as it may be, will yield far better results.
  • Stonewalling versus engaging – In some cases, businesses will choose not to respond at all, which will add fuel to the fire from the customer’s end and give the general impression that the company’s modus operandi is to distance itself from problems that may arise. Instead, immediate engagement can assure all parties of the company’s commitment to delivering a fair and equitable outcome.

Businesses aren’t perfect and the vast majority of customers understand that. By dealing with imperfections in a truthful, objective, and timely manner, your business can show its true colors while avoiding being the subject of cautionary tales used as examples of reputation management mistakes.

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