Reputation matters

A good reputation brings repeat and new customers; conversely, bad reviews can help sink a business. Mentor senior employment law and HR consultant Dawn Smith offers some advice on how to build and protect your reputation online.

There will always be some people you can't please - those who genuinely had a bad experience or sadly delight in sabotage - but how a business deals with customer criticism can be pivotal. Professional and sincere management can mitigate the impact of a negative review on a social media platform.

Recently, British Airways had a widely reported incident where a flight headed for Germany ended up in Scotland owing to the wrong flight plan being used. Ryanair's official Twitter account decided to poke fun at its rival, saying it had a “present” for BA and showing a copy of the book Geography for Dummies. While BA could have retaliated, it chose only to respond 'No one is perfect', while explaining and apologising to passengers in other media.

Ryanair's tweet may have been amusing to some, but its efforts to attack BA's reputation further backfired when large numbers of Twitter users praised BA for its response and in turn attacked Ryanair for its own past failings.

Protecting your reputation

Businesses can help protect their reputations by taking several key steps:

  • Limit the use of official social media accounts to just a few employees, who should be suitably trained.
  • Train staff on equal opportunities and diversity to ensure they will deal with clients confidently and professionally. 
  • Be polite in any response to criticism, whether on social media or not.
  • Apologise when things have gone wrong and try to rectify the problem.
  • While it may be tempting, do not attack rivals publicly - it can backfire.
  • Respect your staff: they are your biggest cheerleaders and how they are treated can affect your reputation in the wider community. Employees are increasingly rating past employers on websites such as Glassdoor, which prospective candidates may use to decide whether or not to apply for positions.
  • Ensure employees' personal social media accounts don't refer to your company, so anything negative they say is unlikely to be tagged to the business.
  • Train all staff in the company policies for social media, blogging and confidentiality.
  • Consider engaging a professional PR company to handle a major reputational incident. 

By Dawn Smith

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