2017 has been quite the year for PR disasters; Bell Pottinger, United Airlines, Uber, and Pepsi have all been caught in the negative freefall of bad publicity. But while we often see crisis as something unavoidable hurtling towards businesses, how many organisations actually take preventive measures? In today’s cynical and forensically reported world, it’s essential for all businesses to continually assess their reputational risks to avoid worst-case scenarios as much as possible.
So how can you tell if your organisation is heading towards a danger zone? Here are five signs that your business’ reputation could be at risk:
1) Questionable ethics
Illegal business activity, especially among large corporations, is perfect media fodder. Even a minor ethical issue resulting from a single employee’s behaviour can significantly impact a business, seriously harming its reputation in hours. Clients may be unwilling to continue working with a company negatively brought into the media spotlight, causing profits to plummet as long-time customers seek new partners. Take Uber: the last year has seen the taxi service face lawsuits, allegations of sexual harassment in the workplace, self-driving car mishaps, an executive exodus, embarrassing leaked videos, and now losing its London licence, leading to negative impressions and customers leaving in droves explicitly because of the bad stories.
2) Lax corporate social responsibility
With more consumers and investors concerned about environmental sustainability and pollution, corporate social responsibility is a growing trend. While there’s always a risk that consumers will unearth a company’s limited corporate social responsibility plans and raise awareness and spread the word via popular networking websites, the fallout of such an event are even more damaging. This is especially true among Millennials, whose scepticism of big corporations has been touted many a time: a recent Deloitte study found 25 percent of those surveyed considered ethics, trust and integrity the biggest factors in ensuring long-term business success
3) Letting customer service slip
Customer satisfaction is now the major differentiator between competitors. If yours are treated poorly, you risk significant damage to your reputation, losing references who will not recommend the company to friends, family members, and business associates. We now live in the ‘TripAdvisor’ society where as customers we also rate and give feedback on everything online, via social media and via email. Because you want clients to act as brand ambassadors, you need to work hard to
consistently improve the customer experience and ensure all consumers are well-served at every point of the customer journey. Research from Cambridge University has found that up to 42% of supposedly satisfied customers are actually unhappy with one or more aspects of the company’s products or services, and may already be considering changing their allegiance. So, customer service skills matter. Remember, “it’s cheaper to keep existing customers than to find new ones”.
4) Unhappy staff
Satisfied employees are more likely to have a stronger sense of attachment to their employers, making it easier for them to promote the company even when they aren’t on the job. Happy workers are also more likely to go out of their way to provide better client experiences and ensure customers are better served. Brands with good reputations, such as Google and Innocent, are often known for being some of the happiest places to work – something Sports Direct is unlikely to be winning any awards for any time soon.
5) Not keeping on top of the technology opportunity
While technology makes many processes easier, it also carries increased reputational risk. Your company website is the place where your both prospects and customers find you. If your website has not been updated, it creates a poor first impression. Data breaches have become more common in recent years, something Equifax knows only too well: not only did they wait six weeks before it announced its massive breach that compromised the data of 143 million Americans and some 400,000 Britons, but they’ve now hit headlines again. As such, it has become imperative for companies to employ stronger systems to protect digital files, or appear ill-prepared to handle other important tasks should a breach take place, losing business to firms that have an unstained reputation with client information security.
If you’ve spotted or encountered any of the above issues and are worried your company’s reputation is not as you’d like it to be, it’s fair to say you’re flying closer to the wind that you ought to be. Prevention is better – and far less damaging – than the post-crisis clean-up, which can often be avoided. If you find yourself in a predicament that you’re not sure how to handle however, or want to get some preparation plans in place, we’ll certainly be able to help.