Maintaining Your Online Brand When Things Go Wrong 

Personal BrandingReputation Management
Online brand emergencies may or may not be 100% our fault, but a business owner must nevertheless spring into action to mitigate the damage.

Business owners are always called upon to work hard to maintain their online brand. We have to think very carefully about the words we use and how they contribute to — or detract from — our brand recognition.

We’ll go to great lengths to create elaborate communication plans for our social media channels, website, and blog. Great care is taken to develop materials that offer the absolute best representation of our business or organization. In short, we put in a lot of blood, sweat, and tears to develop our brand.

And then something completely out of left field goes wrong.

No matter how hard we work on our brand, there comes a time when someone is unhappy with what we have said or done, one of our products needs to be recalled, or we simply cannot get our product or service to the people who want it. Sometimes the problem is something we have done ourselves, such as a poorly written Tweet or Facebook message. Sometimes the problem is outside our control, such as when we struggle with supply chain issues.

In either case, it’s important to create plans for what we will do when something goes wrong. We simply cannot allow one bad day to destroy our online brand. Disaster preparation and planning might feel challenging, but if we think through various situations step by step, we can be ready for whatever happens. 

Are we dealing with unhappy customers?

When dealing with customers, there will always be a few who do not think we are doing a good job. These individuals often are very vocal. One person can throw our whole brand into a tailspin if we are not careful.

In these situations, it’s critically important that we have a plan for how to respond to negative reviews. That way, we can take positive action instead of ignoring or stressing out about the situation. We need to quickly acknowledge the validity of a customer’s complaint, apologize, take responsibility, and make it right.

When we are proactive, we will sometimes find we can turn negative reviews into a positive message for our brand. When customers see that we pay attention to their concerns, they are likely to want to come back and continue to use our product or service.

On the other hand, some clients will complain without leaving any written reviews. When working with them, they may express their unhappiness by being a challenge to work with and by not responding to messages or never seeming content with the work we are doing. We must honestly take a look at these situations and think about how we can best respond. Bad word of mouth can be worse than a written negative review.

Sometimes the best technique online or off is to be bold and simply ask what we can do to make our relationship better. If we name the problem and take notice that a client is unhappy, we can better determine if the issue is something we can work on or something that is outside our control. 

Has a product or service failed? 

Sometimes, instead of issues with customers or clients, we face issues with our products or services. Sometimes products must be recalled because of something that went wrong in manufacturing or because a known allergen was missing from the label. Whenever one of our products is recalled, it’s important that we be honest with our customers. We must tell them what happened and why our product is being recalled. If there is a service failure, the same rule applies. Seek to be transparent with those affected.

If we are using our social media platforms well, we can clearly communicate the steps we are taking in response. Our first response to a recall might include refunding the purchase price or fixing a customer’s product. Our second response should be strategizing as to how to turn the crisis into an opportunity and prevent the issue from recurring.

We can strengthen our online brand by being known as a business that takes full responsibility whenever there is a known issue with our products or services.

Have we encountered supply chain difficulties? 

Sometimes we will find that our challenge is simply keeping products on the shelves. Other times, supply issues occur because there is a shortage of key raw materials. Sometimes a natural disaster such as a hurricane, flood, or snowstorm messes up our supply chain, making it hard for us to keep our products on the shelves.

Whenever we are communicating with customers online, it’s important that we share the reasons why there is a supply issue and an estimate as to when the customer is likely to see the product on shelves again.

Sometimes we will find that our challenge is providing services. We might find that local, state, or national guidelines change how we are able to provide services to our clients. Oftentimes our best strategy is to clearly explain why our services have changed.

For example, we might now have to charge a fee for a service we used to provide for free simply because a local tax hike was put in place. When dealing with changes to service or price increases, the key for us once again is to embrace transparency. If we clearly explain why something has changed, customers tend to be much happier and think more highly of our online brand than if a change occurs unexpectedly, is never satisfactorily explained, or feels like a hidden fee.

Is our brand experiencing upheavals in staffing? 

Finally, we need to consider the effect our employees have on our online brand. We should always pay attention when we notice high staff turnover rates. These might indicate that our staff is unhappy. It is important that we pay attention to staff resilience as unhappy employees can take to social media to vent their frustration creating conflict for our branding.

We will find it is much easier to resolve employee concerns as soon as we notice them. That way, we can talk with employees about what we can do better. Once an employee has left, we no longer have control over the situation and can only play cleanup.

We definitely do not want our brand to be known for treating its employees poorly. This kind of messaging will quickly turn away customers and clients. After all, if we cannot treat our employees well we might also struggle to treat our customers right. We must make it a habit of resolving employee issues quickly and with compassion. That way, our employees will be better able to resolve customer complaints with the same level of understanding and compassion. The result will be bringing our organization and its brand maintenance full circle.