Reputation management is a tough balancing act for any company. You have to be proactive about dealing with defamatory reviews, and responding to legitimate complaints.
Meanwhile, you also have to pay attention to what your own employees are doing. Any employee who deals with your customer base has a big opportunity to create a big reputation problem for your business.
Sales representatives can be the worst culprits. Commission work can create some unique temptations, and sales managers can exacerbate these problems by evaluating sales representatives on all the wrong behaviors.
1. They engage in spurious upsells.
Why are people so suspicious of sales representatives? Because at some point or another, we've all been "talked into" buying a product we did not actually need or want.
Upselling is great. However, you should be careful about pushing upsells and add-ons that the customer ultimately will not need or enjoy. Otherwise, you're all but guaranteeing an episode of buyer's remorse, which can leave a really bad taste in the mouth of that customer.
The consequences of this action may not be evident right away. The customer might not run right out to Yelp or his personal blog to talk about this horrible product or your horrible company. But he won't feel much loyalty to you either, and may be all too willing to flee to a competitor the first time your reputation takes a major hit from another source.
Solution: Train your reps on the difference between a good upsell and a bad upsell.
2. They outright lie to customers.
Many sales representatives will say anything to get the sale. As soon as this happens, you've got a ticking time bomb on your hands. Customers will discover the falsehood, and they will be furious when they do. In this scenario, the customer is likely to take to the Internet to spread the word to just about anyone who will listen. And he'd be justified in doing so.
Of course, sales representatives don't always offer bald-faced lies. Sometimes they lie by implication, or by omission. Sometimes they do it because they're afraid that if they call a customer's attention to certain facts the sale won't happen. In truth, calmly explaining that the customer's credit card will be automatically charged each month and that there is a 30-day cancellation policy won't keep most customers from buying if your reps have done a good job of pre-qualifying them for the product or service.
Solution: Train your sales representatives to be absolutely honest, even with the sticky bits.
3. They place undue stress on your back-end staff.
"Sure, I can have it to you by Friday! I'll just make that note right here on the order."
It's Thursday afternoon.
Sales representatives are often afraid to say "no," so this happens all the time. Fulfillment staff either scrambles to fill the unreasonable request, thus creating issues with all of the other orders, or they flat-out refuse to fulfill the special request--which means the sales representative just lied to the customer (see #2).
Solution: Train your reps on fulfillment procedure, and teach them how to be diplomatic when they explain what your staff can and cannot do.
One final solution: check your metrics.
Are any of your metrics encouraging any of these behaviors? If so, it's time to adjust them. A sales representative who feels she is going to lose her job if she doesn't try to upsell a customer is always going to do so, whether or not it's in the best interests of the customer. A sales representative who gets penalized when customers opt out of auto-pay may be tempted to avoid mentioning that tiny little detail.
Turn "looking out for the customer's best interests" into a cornerstone of your company culture. Believe it or not, this behavior is in your best interests, too.