reputation management and psychology

The Psychology of Reputation: Influencing Perceptions Online

Even the best businesses have unhappy customers. Perhaps the actual reason may have started as a minor misunderstanding or miscommunication years ago, but by now, it’s evolved into outright anger.

In the past, there wasn’t much that unhappy people could do about this — other than maybe communicating directly with the company, not patronizing them, or telling their friends.

Today, there are plenty of online tools that allow dissatisfied clients to blast their unhappiness at a much larger level, including leaving negative reviews online or posting unpleasant statements on social media. Instead of calling or writing to a company privately, some opt for a larger and more public airing of their grievances, complete with approval from others with similar opinions and perceived experiences.

How a business responds to this criticism is critical and speaks to the psychology of why reputation management is becoming so vital as a smart business practice. It may feel unfamiliar at first, but there are a variety of resources available to provide guidance in using online reputation management effectively.

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Some of the reasons why reputation management makes sense from a psychological perspective include the following:

1. It helps a business appear honest and human

If the public sees a business trying to make things right with a dissatisfied customer, that can go a long way in boosting its integrity as a company that wants to help. Although it would be easy enough to ignore or delete unflattering reports or even punch back, these approaches could look bad in the long run.

2. The good can outweigh the bad

One of the techniques Status Labs suggests is for businesses to keep creating new content. The more company-generated pieces that exist online, from blog posts to press releases, the easier it will be for these to show up in searches. In comparison, a few negative reviews from a few years ago will slowly move lower in search results as time goes on. They’re not going away — but it may be harder to run across them as the more positive, recent pieces are published.

3. It creates an opportunity for positive support

Unhappy people will presumably find like-minded people who agree with them. That’s human nature. But businesses can use this fact to their advantage. Online reputation management encourages creating opportunities to leave positive reviews. This can encourage loyal, satisfied customers to respond and share their great experiences, which can counter, or at least possibly balance, other less-than-happy reviews. Make sure you do it properly, though — you can maybe offer discounts or public recognition, but paying for false reviews or other shortcuts can backfire and hurt your reputation.

reputation management and psychology

4. Be open to improvement

It’s easy enough to dismiss negative reviews as “someone having a bad day,” or “just one unhappy person.” Looking for ways to dismiss negative opinions is a natural reaction when someone is attacking your company that you’ve put a lot of effort into growing and doing well. But what if there’s something valid about what a negative review says? What if, once you get through the anger and personal attacks, there’s a situation where your process broke down or an interaction went wrong? Was it a matter of a customer being unhappy with your people or your rules, or you not offering adequate follow-through?

By regularly looking at both your compliments and your complaints, certain common issues may emerge. The customers may not always be right, but maybe your people can use a refresher on rules, guidelines, and how they interact with others.

5. Promote your expertise

One way to appeal to current and new customers is to be seen as a company that cares about its community and stands behind its products or services. Status Labs suggests getting involved in local events as a sponsor or promoter. This will let you be seen in a positive light and allow your friendly people to be seen and heard, rather than just a name. Related to that is offering opportunities for the public or others in the industry to learn about you, like classes.

Reputation management also shouldn’t be thought of as a one-time solution. Just like psychology, it’s more of a constant journey that focuses on improved perceptions over time.

Salman Zafar

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