Word Out on the Town

Reputation has always carried heavy importance for businesses across industry. Throughout the last century, customer loyalty was primarily forged through personal interactions that involved a high standard of service blended with consistency. Managing performance and generating new business was dependent on solid reputations and relationships. However, technology is the basis for a large majority of interaction between businesses and consumers. With this shift, the importance of reputation is not diminished; instead, a new standard is being set online.

The internet has accelerated the speed of consumer interactions with brands in dramatic fashion. As one might expect, reputation has become increasingly transient and incredible sensitive. A plethora of online ‘review’ sites populated by communities of customers giving feedback in real time has empowered the voices of consumers. A single bad review of a restaurant can deter other patrons, and a bit of praise can fill the reservation book. Whether from advocates or critics, the instantaneous reporting of customer experience can literally be make or break for a business.

These drastic changes have led to behavioral changes, manifested most strikingly in the form of companies touting themselves as “reputation management firms.” The anonymity that the internet allows by nature has meant that not all customer reviews or ratings are to be believed, and a small number of businesses have turned to gaming the system by eliminating negative feedback and creating fake reviews with the goal of building a strong reputation or repairing one that is damaged.

The reality is disconcerting, but the message is clear: reputation online plays an extremely important role in success within the highly competitive landscape. It is important for owners and operators to understand customer feedback, address concerns, and motivate the large audiences on review sites and in the press in order to turn negatives into positives. Utilized correctly, a robust reputation online can prove to be a massive advantage, vital to the success of any business now and in the foreseeable future.

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