A Harris Poll was recently released on the Most Loved and Most Hated Companies http://www.harrisinteractive.com/vault/2015%20RQ%20Media%20Release%20Report_020415.pdf
The names of the most beloved are certainly not a surprise. In the Top 10 are Wegmans Food Markets, Amazon, Samsung and Costco to name a few. Particularly of note are the themes which included a focus on reputation. As a small business owner in a service business, I know the importance of reputation. Reputation is everything. When you look at the reputations of the 100 Most Visible Companies those who have had major issues rank at the bottom. While the poll is obviously aimed at rating larger companies, I think there are some important takeaways for small business.
Customers Want Best in Class Performance
You don’t have to be a big company to be best in class. You do need to provide the highest quality service day in and day out. People have high expectations about their business partners, higher than ever before, so it’s important to really know your customers and be able to “over-deliver” on what they need and want.
Leadership is Important
It’s not enough to just do what your customers ask you to do. They want you to step out and show that you are really thinking about their problems and issues and working to provide answers. They want you to show leadership in your industry. Perhaps you sit on the board of a trade organization or other association. Maybe you are stepping out to develop new products or innovative processes. Standing still or simply doing what you have always done is not enough.
Customers/Consumers Do Their Homework
The Harris Poll found that “over half of the public investigates corporate behavior before buying and one third decided not to do business with a company because of something they learned about how the company conducts itself.” This is not surprising if you think about how much your customers can learn about you and your business on the Internet. Today it is all out there- the good ratings and the bad. It is important to monitor what customers are saying about you. Look at reviews on social media. If you get a bad one, don’t hide, respectfully respond. At least your point of view will be heard.
Be a Good Member of the Community
I have often written about the importance of giving back to the community. It’s a great way to engage employees and it just makes you feel good that you can use company resources to help others. It turns out that it also endears you to customers, but many companies have a hard time with this dimension of reputation. In fact, according to the poll “Social Responsibility remains a high bar, with only five companies achieving Excellent ratings.”
This is an area where we can all improve. I do believe that you need to have a passion for the “good” that you are doing. In the case of my business, we try each year to support organizations that employees believe in. This past year, it was Kid’s’ Food Basket which helps students in needs with sack lunches and suppers. (https://kidsfoodbasket.worldsecuresystems.com/donate/donate-onlineinsert link)
Bottom line: it does not matter if you are a big company like those mentioned in the poll or a small business your reputation has an impact on your business. Protect it because once it is impugned it is hard to repair the damage.