In recent years, reputation management, in many ways, has become more difficult. The Internet has seen to that. All it takes is for one dissatisfied customer, never mind a whole cadre of them, to tell the world about his / her unsatisfactory experience with your business.
One social media post can “go viral” in a few days. In fact, it seems that the media picks up some of its best stories this way.
America seems to suffer from this the most.
Recently, employees in a fast food store in Texas were found to be putting what were considered to be racist identifiers, rather than names, on customer receipts. One customer took a photograph of his receipt and that of a friend and sent it to a local television station’s Facebook page.
Not to be outdone by our cousins across the pond, the Telegraph recently ran a story summarizing 10 of the Most Brilliant Customer Service Exchanges on Twitter”. Eight of them weren’t what you’d call good publicity.
These examples are what we might call the “tip of the iceberg”.
The challenge you face to maintain a positive reputation is enormous. It means that you can never let your guard down because you never know who’s watching.
That’s the negative way of looking at it.
The positive way is to say instead that you always do your best for your customers; and if truth be told, you’ll have far fewer complaints if you adopt this attitude. The difficulty can come from instilling that attitude in your employees.
Now we need to clear up something before we go any further. This is not an opportunity for you to offer self-congratulations about how great you are at this and to push the blame for the organization’s bad reputation onto your employees. Whether you like it or not, it’s your responsibility. The fact of the matter is that if those who work for you have the wrong attitude, then you must recognize that they got it from somewhere. In other words, it’s a learned behaviour.
Most likely, they observed that it was something that was acceptable from the management.
As children, we learned, “Monkey see; monkey do”. As employees, we learn, “What’s good for the goose is good for the gander”. In other words, whatever you do, regardless of the context, is okay for the rest of us.
So the key to managing your company’s reputation begins inside, with you. You set the tone for what behaviours are acceptable or unacceptable.
What might that look like in practice?
Much has been made in the press lately about unwanted sexual advances towards people of the opposite sex.
Does that sort of thing happen in your company?
It doesn’t have to be as overt as what we’ve heard about in the States. In the UK, where we’re much more reserved (that’s the theory, anyway), it could be references to the type of clothing that is being worn, or a bit of ogling, or sexist remarks.
Do you ever do that? Do you ever condone that from anyone?
If you do, then you are authorizing it. You are putting your stamp of approval on it for every employee; and therefore you shouldn’t be surprised when others do it and or something much worse. They do it because they think it’s okay; that there won’t be any repercussions.
The same thing is true when it comes to race or ethnic origin. You know, if you always refer to people by their names, then no one will ever have grounds to call you a racist or a sexist. It’s when you refer to them by their race, the gender, or their ethnic origin that you get into trouble.
Why take the risk?
Why set a negative pattern for your organization?
When you look at it like that, then it’s easy to see how workplaces, never mind organizations, acquire a bad reputation.
Your thoughts matter
There’s something that you ought to be aware of. Maybe you never thought about it like this.
It’s really difficult to keep your thoughts to yourself. You may think that you do a pretty good job of hiding them; but as you know, what you do is evidential of what you think.
And so if you harbour negative thoughts about someone, then eventually you will reveal them either in what you say, or what you do, or both.
People aren’t as stupid as you think they are. They will pick up on this.
Some will be repulsed by it; others will accept it. Still others will adopt your thinking for themselves and then behave according to how you think.
Psychologists have a name for this. It’s called identification. When people identify with you, they try to dress like you, swagger like you, and discriminate like you. They want to be you because they want to be liked by you.
It’s how yes-men and yes-women develop. Instead of being who they are, they try to be like you.
This brings us to the crux of the matter.
What reputation would you like not only your customers, but also your prospects and future employees to have of your organization? Do you want more business? Do you want to be able to attract qualified staff? Do you want there to be a culture of mutual respect?
All of these things are up to you. They are within your control. Whether or not they occur, however, depends on you.
Your homework is to evaluate the extent to which your organization has the reputation that you would like it to have.
There are three groups to think about: those who work for you; those who may work for you in the future, and those who use your products and / or services or who may do so in the future.
You may need to employ the services of a management consultant who is skilled in constructing questionnaires to do this properly. You see, in order to get an objective assessment, you need someone who will ask questions in the absence of bias.
If you are the one who is doing it, then your answers will be skewed. In other words, you’re more likely to hear what you want to hear than you are to get the truth. And let’s face it: You can’t manage anything unless you know what the situation is.
If you want to explore these issues further – email me to set up an initial conversation.