The law of gravity states, in a nutshell, that what goes up must come down. A business, in the abstract sense, is no different. A business can fall as fast as or faster than it grows, with most of the movement due to the business’s reputation. A good reputation in any avenue of life is a precious commodity; in the business world, it can be the difference between a rosy red future and a terminal black out.
In recent news, a certain wunderkind with a strong arm, fast legs, and a penchant for the miraculous surfaced on the hallowed grounds of Texas A&M’s Kyle Field. Jonathan Paul Manziel, more commonly known as Johnny “Johnny Football” Manziel, seemingly appeared out of almost thin air to become the most exciting freshman college football player since Herschel Walker, winning game after game (including dethroning #1 ranked Alabama in Tuscaloosa) and eventually becoming the first freshman to win the Heisman Trophy.
But then that pesky concept called gravity set in. Before I step up on my wobbly pedestal and preach about not being able to fathom what kind of imbecile would take all that fame and glory and attempt to flush it down the john, I will say this: I was a 20-year-old once, I was seemingly invincible, and I liked to have a good time. However, I was not the starting QB on a major college football team. I didn’t have people around me to make sure I made it to class on time, got enough time in the gym, did my homework, and try to keep me out of trouble. I’m assuming that, as the reigning Heisman winner on a team expected to contend for the national title, Manziel has a few people watching after him. I believe in grace. Not as a theology, but as a culture. That said, it’s becoming increasingly harder to back up a kid who has the world at his feet but insists on kicking said planet in a delicate area. On the one hand, he’s young and full of the same brash sense of bravado and invincibility that all young men have at that age. On the other hand, he has what 99.9% of those same young men don’t have and probably never will have: a free ticket to a wonderful future by doing something one did on crisp autumn afternoons in the yard for fun. Unless he takes drastic steps to improve his image, Johnny Football will become Johnny Footnote.
Think of your business as having all the promise and potential of a freshman Heisman winner. Think of your company as having the talent to unseat the #1 ranked team in the country. If you think you can ride the coattails of a few good accomplishments to continued fame and fortune, you’re either Chubby Checker or you’re delusional. Simply sitting back and expecting the masses to kiss your ring while providing mediocre to bad customer service doesn’t work today.
The Harvard Business Review finds that:
- 25% of customers are likely to say something positive about their experience.
- 65% are likely to speak negatively.
- 23% of customers who had a positive service interaction told 10 or more people about it.
- 48% of customers who had negative experiences told 10 or more others.
Your business cannot rest on its laurels and expect the world to revolve around it. If you start putting out an inferior product and/or your customer service takes a dive, your reputation will fall faster than an Iron Maiden song’s position in the jazz charts. Your company’s reputation is only as good as your last deed, and your proponents can only defend you for so long if you let your reputation slip. Just as the only person that can right the USS Johnny Football is Jonathan Paul Manziel, the only person that can stay the course on calm seas into Prosperity Port is you, by maintaining a positive and trustworthy image with your audience and addressing any negative experiences from customers immediately and to an agreeable resolution.
What can you do RIGHT NOW? Here a few simple bits of advice that can be implemented post haste if need be:
- Listen to your audience. If you want to hear how wonderful you are, go ask your mom. If you want an honest opinion on how you are doing, ask your customers. Hear them, take in their critiques, and adjust accordingly.
- If you’re doing something wrong, admit it and change. Domino’s Pizza, in what is shaping up to be one of the most outstanding turnarounds ever, solicited advice from their customers (see above bullet point) and took ALL comments— the good, the bad, and the just plain mean— seriously and came to a conclusion: Their pizzas needed to change. So, starting with the crust, they re-invented their product and made it known why they did it. No excuses, no double speak. Just honesty and straight-forward reasoning. And it’s paying off thus far.
- Don’t be afraid to change. Change can be a good thing. Imagine if you still had the same mentality you had at 12 that you do now (my wife is NOT allowed to weigh in on that statement). You probably wouldn’t get much farther than jokes about amusing body noises and trying to have a wardrobe like every other 12-year-old in your world. So why do some people treat their business like a perpetual child, stuck in some alternate universe where aging is the ‘x’ in the mathematical equation of life? Businesses that don’t change often get a reputation for being stubborn and unbending. That’s not a good thing. You don’t have to change your product or your service if it works, but you DO have to adapt to what works in marketing and finding new ways to promote and expand your brand.
- Check Google Alerts.
With a simple query, you can peruse the web to see what people are saying about you, monitor a new endeavor, or keep track of trends, etc.
- Search hashtags and keep track of your social media.
Searching for threads involving your company is a great way to keep on top of how others perceive you. Using a service such as HootSuite allows you to monitor several at one time.
- Ask for Yelp.
Go to where the consumers go to give their honest opinion about a company/service. Take notes and commit to action if necessary.
The Harvard Business Review article states that what people remember has a greater impact on them than what people experience. Make each customer’s last touch point a positive and memorable experience, and your reputation will speak for itself. In a good way, of course.