A business’s reputation can make or break its success.

Whether you’re a small startup or a multinational corporation, how customers perceive your brand can significantly impact your bottom line.  One thoughtless comment can whiz round the world in seconds and make social media headlines in all the wrong ways.

Unfortunately, many business people inadvertently make mistakes that can damage their reputation and hinder their success.

Let’s take a deep dive into the five biggest mistakes business people make in relation to their reputation and flag up the ways you can avoid making these mistakes.

1: Neglecting online reviews and feedback

Online reviews and feedback can make or break a business.  Yet, despite their importance, many business people fail to prioritise monitoring and responding to them effectively.  According to research, 93% of consumers say that online reviews influence their purchasing decisions, highlighting the critical role they play in shaping perceptions of your brand.

It only takes one less than positive comment to influence potential customers.  Especially if nobody from your organisation has bothered to respond.

You need a plan!

A robust reputation management strategy is essential.  This isn’t just about what to do when things go wrong, but how to encourage them to go right.

First step is to check out all the review channels such as Google, Yelp, TripAdvisor, and social media channels, depending on where you think your customers are most likely to leave reviews and ratings.

Monitor these regularly – and the frequency of this and assignment of responsibility for doing it needs to be included in your plan.  If you know what people are saying you can respond quickly to negative feedback and demonstrate your commitment to customer satisfaction.

Part of your reputation management strategy should also include actively encouraging satisfied customers to leave positive reviews.  This doesn’t mean just an automated email system that pings reminders out every week/month (which can have a negative effect), but a carefully considered request for feedback at a sensible point in their customer experience with you.  Give them a chance to digest their experience rather than hitting them with a request for feedback two seconds after they’ve paid the invoice.

This will build your business’s credibility, trustworthiness and reputation.

2: Being inauthentic or insincere

Authenticity is the cornerstone of trust in today’s marketplace.  However, many businesses fall into the trap of crafting overly curated or inauthentic messaging that fails to resonate with their audience.

Consumers aren’t stupid and will quickly spot when a business is using smoke and mirrors to create an effect that isn’t genuine.

For example, a sole trader can easily create a glitzy website that looks like it’s a nationwide organisation, using corporate language and stock images.  When that trader turns up in a dirty, white van or uses a gmail/Yahoo/Outlook/hotmail email address it blows the initial image out of the water.

Over time this will erode trust and loyalty, not to mention getting less than 5 star feedback when customers are asked for their recommendation by others.

Celebrate who you are

Your voice and image need to be congruent with everything you do and publish.  So people get what they expect.  Your goal is to set up expectations that you can meet and educate your team about the personality of your business.

If you can humanise your brand and connect with customers on a personal level, you’ll build a completely authentic image.  This is the opposite of trying to be something that doesn’t feel comfortable.

There’s a big difference between ‘This is how I am, you’ll just have to suck it up’ and ‘this is my passion for my business and how I want to serve customers’.

Share behind-the-scenes glimpses of your company culture, so if you run or participate in a charity event share your stories or why you chose that charity, your experiences of working with them – and their stories featuring people they’ve helped.

Highlight employee stories, including why they got into your industry and their aspirations.  What is each person passionate about – at work and outside work.

Showcase real customer testimonials, include before and after scenarios – either images if your business lends itself to that or descriptions.  When you gather testimonials don’t forget to ask the happy customer ‘What changed as a result of what we did for you?’

Inject personality and transparency into your communications to strengthen your brand’s reputation.

3: Failure to deliver on promises

Reliability is non-negotiable.  Yet, many businesses struggle to consistently deliver on their promises, whether it’s meeting deadlines, honouring pricing quotes, or providing quality products and services.

The result is frustrated and disappointed customers, who then may post a negative review and damage your reputation.

If you’ve promised something, you’ve set up expectations.  Let’s make it personal – if you’ve ordered a special cake for a celebration, you want to pick it up the day before the event.  How would you feel if you turn up at the specified time and the cake maker apologises and asks you to come back at 6pm as the cake decoration isn’t finished yet?

Your whole schedule for the day will be shot.  You’ve probably got a to-do list for the event a mile long and this is going to mean lots of reshuffling, finding people who can help and more inconvenience.

If you don’t deliver to meet your promises, your reputation will start to fray around the edges.


The formula is to under-promise and over-deliver, not the other way around.  Operational excellence is critical to customer satisfaction.

Invest in robust systems and processes to streamline operations and ensure consistency in service delivery

Educate your team, whether in-house or outsourced, to understand your expectations – and those of your customers.  Provide ongoing training and support to ensure they’re equipped to meet these expectations

Empower your team to make decisions so they don’t have to make the customer wait to get the answer they need

Prioritizing reliability and accountability will build your reputation for excellence.  This will not only meet and exceed customer expectations, but also set you above your competitors.

4: A defensive reaction

In today’s interconnected world, businesses are under constant scrutiny, and commentary can come from all directions – not least on social media.

If your business is your ‘baby’, it’s easy to take everything that people say as a criticism and jumping to its defence.  It’s a human reaction and we’re all human.

In fact, even getting a 4-star review on any of those online rating systems can upset some people.  Actually 4 stars is good!

Reacting emotionally or defensively to any feedback that isn’t 100% can make a poor situation worse or, worse still, turn a good review into a battle.  This isn’t a great way to build a good reputation.  It’s essential to approach criticism with a level head and a constructive mindset.

Leverage the opportunity

Teach yourself to be objective about feedback and get into the habit of taking a step back, examining the feedback, whether it’s written comments or a star/number rating.  See it as an opportunity to improve.

When faced with criticism, assess the situation and appreciate and understand the other person’s point of view.  If they’re unhappy, it’s important to really understand why what they got wasn’t what they wanted.

There’s a five step process to dealing with problems:

  1. Listen carefully to the customer’s concerns
  2. Demonstrate empathy and understanding
  3. Ask questions to ensure you understand what and why it has upset them
  4. Explain what you will do promptly and professionally, acknowledging their feedback and outlining steps to address their concerns.
  5. When you’ve done everything you promised check back with the customer to ensure they are happy with the outcome.

By handling criticism with grace and genuine interest in the customer, you can turn a negative experience into an opportunity to showcase your commitment to customer satisfaction.

If it’s not a major problem you’re addressing, but a lower rating than you’d hoped for, there’s a different opportunity.  If you are able to respond directly to the person giving the rating, thank them for their feedback and explain that you’d like to get a higher rating next time.  Then ask them where you fell short of the best possible rating and ask how they would recommend you improve.

5: Overlooking your team

You may have staff, or you may have contractors, associates, or another model for delivering your product or service to your customers.  Every person associated with your business who comes into contact with your customer makes an impression.

Hopefully, employees buy into your business ethos and represent that to your customers, but contractors, associates and other external suppliers are harder to influence.

Education is the secret

For your own staff the way customer interaction is conducted should start at induction and be reinforced by the way everyone in the organisation behaves.  It should be embedded in company culture.  It doesn’t matter what the individual roles are, it’s as important for a cleaner as it is for the top executives.

For external suppliers it should be part of the initial conversation and part of their contract to supply goods and services.  Even if people may not come into contact with your customers, their approach to the supply of their goods or services must match yours for you to be able to maintain the reputation you want.

Reputation rules

The long-term health of your business relies on how well you protect and promote your reputation.  A stellar reputation has a direct impact on your bottom line.  So what could you do better?