A solid reputation management action plan that anticipates and corrects common problems is a present almost any manager would like to see underneath the Christmas tree. And if you start right now, you could pull together a comprehensive plan to get you through the holidays without a gaffe.
Avoiding issues this time of the year is vital, as the Pew Research Center found November-December 2013 sales made up close to 19 percent of all sales that took place during the fall of 2013. That means sales during the holiday season could make or break your business.
All of those sales are attached to customers, and every one of those customers has the potential to say nice things or horrible things about the work you’re doing and the products you sell.
Clearly, when it comes to consumer exposure and the potential for consumer ire, there’s no more dangerous time than the holiday time. And that means you should start planning now, so you can put those plans to work before the consumers come flying in.
So what should be on your gift-wrapped action plan? I have a few ideas.
1. Treat Your Staff
A great company reputation begins and ends with a well-trained staff that is motivated to do anything and everything to keep things running smoothly for customers. These are the people who talk with your customers, work with your customers, take their money, and hand out your product in return. These are the people who can either hand out delight or punish with ire. So it makes sense to put their happiness at the top of your to-do list.
There are a few ways you can accomplish that goal.
Many companies give employees some kind of end-of-year bonus. These payouts don’t need to be lavish. They might be just a small percentage of what the person takes home in a regular paycheck. But a gift like this can be just what a harried, holiday-burned-out employee might need in order to put on a happy face for the next customer that walks in. Hand out a bonus, and you could be handing out a little reputation protection.
But if money is tight for your company, you’ll be glad to know that there are other steps you can take to keep your staffers shining. In a study of employee engagement, researchers found that respectful treatment of all employees and trust between employees and management topped the list of things workers tied to job satisfaction. Money came in fourth.
Boosting a sense of trust and respect might be as easy as asking your employees to give their input on a regular basis. And that doesn’t cost anything but your time.
2. Hack Your Website
Once you know you’re working with a team of professionals that want your company to succeed, you can start to dive into the search engine portion of your reputation management strategy. And that means you’ll need to deal with review websites.
Econsultancy suggests that a full 61 percent of consumers read reviews online before they decide on a purchase. That means you’ll need to have a solid log of positive reviews to help you float through the holiday season.
You can get that by ensuring your customers know which sites to write reviews. And you can boost your chances of success if you make those sites really easy for your customers to find.
Look for customer touchpoints on your website, and seek out ways to prompt a review when that step is completed. A customer that makes an appointment, pays a bill, or buys a product could easily be given a flash screen with hot links to your review pages and a simple request for a review. That little prompt could up the positive reviews you get, and that could help you ride out the season in style.
3. Park Your Staff Online
Your website is likely to be a hopping place during the holiday season. But you’ll have other online tools to monitor, too. You’ll need to keep an eye on:
- Angie’s List
These are the sites in which a very small attack can take hold and begin to grow. And those attacks can come at any time, including times during which your physical office might be closed.
If it’s possible, ensure someone is monitoring your online reputation at all times, looking for new attacks and working with the team to respond to attacks (more on that in a bit). If you can’t devote staff to this around-the-clock monitoring, set up a schedule that allows you to spot check every 4 hours. Or every 6 hours. Or whatever schedule works best for you and your company. Just make sure you’re keeping an eye on your reputation throughout the entire season, so you won’t walk into big messes you could have solved hours before.
4. Create a System
A good monitoring system helps you spot an attack. But once you see it, you’ll need to deal with it. And that means you’ll need to create a response playbook that details what you’ll say and who will say it when you come under an attack.
The right response matters. In fact, in an Arizona study, researchers found hotels that responded to at least half of their online reviews increased their occupancy rates by more than 6 percent. That’s a great little stat that shows just how much power a response really has.
Just remember: Your response should be short, sweet, professional, and accurate. And sometimes, you’ll need to prompt people to discuss the problem with you offline, so you’ll have a change to explain things without the prying eyes of others.
5. Write up Reminders
In addition to paying attention to how others write or think about your company over the holidays, it pays to think about how your employees could sabotage your company with their revelry.
If you provide alcohol in the workplace, and many companies seem to do so, per ABC News, it makes sense to ensure that your employees know about the damage a drunken snap can cause. Same goes for white elephant gifts. And holiday jokes.
Before the holidays are in full swing, make sure your employees review your company’s social media policy. If they know the damage they can do, and the consequences that will hit them if they slip up, they might be a little more careful.
6. Stick With Promotions
While you have a lot on your plate, remember that you should still be writing up your blog posts and social media posts, even as the holidays wear on. Every little bit of content you work up has the potential to tell the story of your company in a whole new way, and that content could help to overcome a new reputation attack.
A recent survey of professional bloggers suggests that most writers spend about 2.5 hours per blog entry. If you’re struggling to carve out that time, look for freelancers or other staffers that might help. You need the content, so it pays to ask for help if you need it.
Revise and Repeat
A reputation management plan is never a set-and-forget it deal. You’ll need to continue to monitor your progress and tweak your approaches as time goes on. But this action plan should at least get you started on the road to holiday victory (and success with your boss). So get started! And shoot me a note in the comments and tell me all about your successes.