Over the last two weeks, we've talked about how you can build a positive reputation and how you can handle a situation where your reputation has been tarnished. What can you do, though, if you've just got a bad reputation? This can happen when a business comes under new management, a manager finally becomes aware of a poor reputation, or the business has made other choices that have led to some changes in how the business is operated.
Your reputation is bad. What can you do now?
First, consider re-branding your public front. Change the name of the business. Change the location of the business. If the latter doesn't work, refresh the entire layout and content of the business. Change your logo as well. To put it simply, you're making an effort to cut connections to the previous public incarnation of your business, drastically reducing the negative baggage that you'll be carrying with you into the future.
Second, understand what caused the negative reputation. Why did people think your business was disreputable? Don't use your energy looking for people to blame; instead, you're looking for business attributes you can change to address that negative reputation. Whatever the concerns were, seek out ways to change your business to address those concerns.
Third, make your changes clear without announcing them. Don't mention the previous concerns, but make a point of the things you've changed positively in your business. If you've updated your storefront, let people know with a sign advertising the changes. If you've changed your employees, put your new employees up front so that people can see the fresh faces. If you're recovering from a long-established bad reputation, don't dwell on that, but focus instead on the positive things you're changing now and let people know about them.
Fourth, re-establish yourself in the community. Often, businesses with bad reputations also have a healthy dose of no reputation at all with many people in your community. Your business is often unknown by many people, particularly newer people in the community. That offers you a great opportunity to make yourself known to them with a clean slate. Use some basic techniques for getting the word out about your business as though it were a new business: direct mailings, community involvement, advertising and so on.
Finally, adopt strict policies that do not allow you to backslide. It is very easy for a business to change their ways for a short while, then fall back into the behaviors that caused their poor reputation in the first place. Don't allow that to happen. Right now is the time to change everything about how you conduct business, top to bottom, and establish new ways of doing things that don't allow for the behaviors that persisted before. If you had problems with billing, a new billing procedure and software can fix that. If you had problems with cleanliness, a change in employee responsibility following a cleaning of the house can fix that.
A long-established bad reputation can take a very long time to fix and can sometimes require a complete re-branding of the business. You may also want to ask yourself if it might not be smarter to simply start over from scratch.