By Mark Moore, flyingsolo.com.au
Whether you’re a shooting star on the ascent or plummeting back down to earth with a thud, in the age of personal recommendation, public perception could see your business doing a u-turn in an instant.
Online social networks and rating systems mean that word of mouth has never had as much influence on your business as it does today.
People love to talk to others about their experiences, and review sites offering customers the opportunity to rate your products and services are skyrocketing in popularity.
On the web, it's easy for people to tell each other how well you served them, and they will.
The internet brings like-minded people together and between them the crowd have the potential to make or break your business.
Ultimately you’ll sink, swim or fly based on whether you deliver what your customers want, when they want it and in the way that they want to receive it.
Review sites like www.productreview.com.au improve quality of service and innovation by rewarding those who deliver value to their customers and reprimanding those who don’t. I often visit them to decide how to spend my time, money and energy, and as a result rarely waste money on inferior products or services.
People ultimately vote with their wallets, so it’s a safe bet that businesses whose products and services receive good reviews will thrive, while those with poor report cards are likely to find themselves in trouble.
Your customers are constantly reviewing you anyway, whether it’s in their own minds, while chatting with their colleagues or via email, forums and social networking sites.
High traffic review sites like Twitter and Digg don’t change what people are saying about you and your service – they just amplify it.
The internet reinvents itself fast and you may well find yourself being talked about on a review site sooner than you expect.
Your like-minded customers will find each other, and when they do, you’ll discover what people really think about your soloist service.
After all, it's not the feedback your customers give you that matters; it's what they tell each other.
As a soloist, it’s worth remembering that word of mouth about your service travels more easily than ever before. If the stories people are telling about you are great, then that’s fantastic!
But bad news tends to be more contagious than good news, so if you’re not delivering, it’s only a matter of time before word starts getting around.
If you do find yourself being publicly chastised for something, be aware that bad news turned into good news tends to be the most contagious of all.
The secret to reversing your fortunes is to acknowledge and apologise for your error or oversight, and then quickly and publicly correct it.
With a bit of luck you might just win back more customer loyalty than you originally lost, and may even turn a potential disaster into a PR coup.
For more from Mark Moore, head to www.flyingsolo.com.au, Australia's online community for solo business owners.
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