There is an argument that you can’t put a price on your reputation, but what happens when something happens to dent your reputation?  You don’t want negative feedback on Google or TrustPilot or any other platform – because it influences what people who don’t know you think about you and your business.

It takes time to become known in your local area, build an online network and be able to reach the people who will become customers or recommend you to others, so you definitely want to protect all that hard work building your reputation.

In effect your reputation is based on trust.  Trust isn’t gained overnight; it takes time and effort to build.  Unfortunately, losing it is the work of a moment.  It doesn’t take much to destroy a reputation – one thoughtless post on social media, a rant about a difficult client or even a genuine mistake that is blown out of all proportion by someone else and is outside your control.

The fallout

If your reputation has taken a knock it can definitely have an effect on your bottom line.  While existing clients may forgive you if they know you well and realise that whatever has happened was a mistake – and everyone makes them – potential clients aren’t privileged to know the real you and may simply decide engaging you is too great a risk.

It depends on what the problem is.  If you’ve made an error of judgment publicly then don’t hope it will go away.  The internet doesn’t have a long memory, it has a cache and nothing ever completely goes away.  Rectify the error – be transparent and up front.  Apologise – and mean it.

If the problem stems from someone else’s statement, contact them privately – don’t enter into an online conversation, it never ends well.  Ideally phone them or, better still, invite them for coffee on neutral ground.  Find out what has caused them to say whatever they have.  Try to remain reasonable and understand their point of view, it will make fixing the problem more of a possibility.

Dealing with difficult people

If they’re just being irrational, it may be that they simply don’t want to engage in a conversation about it.  Be willing to listen to them and don’t try to argue or disagree with whatever they say.  Let them get it all off their chests and eventually they will run out of steam.

It’s difficult to refrain from chipping in when they say something you know is wrong or unfair, but bite your tongue and let them run their course.

Now you can ask questions to ensure you really understand why they’re upset/angry and tell them what you are prepared to do to rectify the situation.  If they accept your offer then treat it as an emergency and do whatever you’ve promised.  If they’re still unwilling to play ball ask them what would make things better for them.

Once you’ve done whatever you’ve promised do follow up.  Find out if they’re happy with it.  Listen to whether they say ‘OK’ or ‘… OK’ – one means ‘Everything is good now,’ the other means “I suppose it will have to do.”  If it’s the latter, you might have to dig a little deeper.

Repairing the damage

If the original dent was made publicly you could ask the person you’ve now satisfied to revisit the post or group and tell them what happened and how they now feel about it.  In most cases someone who has had a problem that has been satisfactorily solved is more loyal than someone who has never experienced a problem with you.

If they’re reluctant to stand up and admit they made a mistake you could tell the story yourself, explaining what you did.  At worst, it shows you’re willing to go the extra mile (don’t you love a good cliché?).