As a franchisor, you've dedicated years to your business, built its reputation and perfected your products - so what do you do when you know when others are sullying your business reputation?

If your next major business step is to franchise your brand then reputation management becomes vital. You have to monitor and if necessary defend your brand's reputation. You definitely don't want to deter potential franchisees.

With the increasing number of review sites, social media and blogs it's great for the consumer to find information. But do you know what's being said about your business online?

Reputation Management - Addressing the Issue

It's a tough problem, and it's even tougher knowing that the majority of your customers are happy and satisfied. Yet there's always a few who complain. Any potential franchisor who has had his own business for any length of time may expect to come across a few complaints - he should understand it's a part of doing business.

You can't please all the people all the time.

The worst of it is those complaints and negative reviews may exist without you knowing it, adversely influencing your potential customers and franchisees.

You had a good month, how do you know you could have had an even better month if only it wasn't for Bert from Boston spreading his discontent online? Did Bert actually contact your customer service department to talk about his problem?

The only way to find out is to conduct reputation monitoring and address each complainant as you find them.

Set up a Google Alert for each of your brand names and your company name, or use a similar service offered by Technorati which alerts you via RSS feed. If the majority of your feedback is positive, then great, build on it further by thanking those who did leave a positive review.

Addressing Negative Feedback

But in the case of negative feedback forewarned is definitely forearmed.

Sometimes a customer may have a valid complaint. Bert from Boston could have called your customer service department and been blown off or promised something he never received like a replacement part.

By talking to Bert directly you may get to the root cause of the problem. You may need to retrain your customer service personnel as a result, or improve your product. If either is lacking, then improvement is positive for both your business and your customers.

The negative side will be if you ignore the issue. Bert could leave negative reviews on dozens of sites and on FaceBook and Twitter. It could spread like a virus, so reputation management should have been addressed as soon as the first complaint appeared.

It is how you address individual people and issues that will enhance or decrease your business reputation.

When others see that you are striving to resolve Bert's problem, the negativity may just be turned around. Most people don't expect things to be perfect every time, but they don't expect to be ignored.

Make Bert happy and you may just find he'll start spreading the word about how great your company is at resolving problems. The franchisee will see how you handle complaints the right way, and should be impressed. Problem solved.

Yet, you will always get people who complain just for the sake of it. You may even find that negative reviews are being posted by a competitor. Yes it happens, and it's difficult to prove.

That's a job for your lawyer if you feel it's seriously impacting your revenue.

Train Your Staff

Many social media sites, blogs and forums rank well in Google and may come above yours in the SERPs. You don't want a prospective franchisee reading response-less negative reviews of your business before he picks up the phone.

Train one of your customer service staff in proactive reputation management. Have that person be responsible for checking those alerts and RSS feeds daily.

They should then become skilled at responding quickly and diplomatically to any complaints and be able to manage your business reputation online effectively.

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