Perception is reputation.

People judge books by their covers. 

It’s just how our brains work. 

We are so overloaded most days we use all sorts of mental shortcuts to help perform basic activities. Before we even get out of the bed in the morning, it’s likely we’ve made a half-dozen decisions, ranging from what to wear and where to eat lunch to which route to take to work. We thrive on quick information and quick decisions.

One area where we use these mental shortcuts most frequently is the “consumer review.” A well-known Harvard Business School study found positive reviews on Yelp and a higher star-rating meant higher profits for a business.

Whether we like to acknowledge it or not, popularity matters. What customers perceive as true is the basis of your business’s reputation since “reputation” is a set of qualitative, subjective beliefs.  We can’t always control people’s beliefs, and we can’t always change them. So, it’s crucial to be proactive in maintaining a favorable reputation. 

Just like a good credit score is important to securing a loan, a good reputation is important to securing and maintaining customers. Your business needs credit – or credibility – on which to draw, especially in times of crisis. 

Reputational capital is key. These intangibles, including positive reviews, brand identity, and overall stakeholder trust, can increase the perceived value of your products and services, your stock prices, and your business’s overall valuation.

There are firms and software that focus exclusively on reputation management and repair. Blue Wagon has experience in this area, but there are simple things you can do on a regular basis to help protect and bolster people’s perception of your business.

  • Respond to customer questions or complaints. You might not have the time or the desire to respond to each individual comment, but people who feel heard and receive a response perceive the company as more caring and more invested.
  • Engage on your company’s social media channels. This goes hand-in-hand with customer complaints and questions, only it’s in a public forum. If you spend just 10 minutes each day engaging with your key stakeholders on social media, you may answer a question from many customers, and many customers can see one response.
  • Incentivize reviews and testimonials. This doesn’t mean buy off customers. It just means offering a “thank you” to customers who share their experiences with friends or colleagues. There’s a reason so many businesses engage in some kind of “refer a friend” rewards program. Thank the customers who do spend time writing or saying something positive about their experience with you, your employees, or your business.

You cannot control what people think about your business, but you can help control what they see from your business. Improve their perception, and you can improve your reality.