Your brand is the heart and soul of your business. Branding goes far beyond advertising, packaging, or logos. Branding lies at the very core of your business, of who you are as a company, what you stand for, what your products mean to you, and how you want to be perceived by your customers. Branding is an all-pervasive, idealized view of the very essence of your company. Controlling how customers view - and review -- your brand is key to your success as a business.

Thanks in part to the explosive growth of social media and consumer review sites on the internet, customer reviews have become a vital part of the success of any business. In the recent past, customer reviews were little more than word-of-mouth between customers and potential. Now, however, a bad review can spread at the speed of light from one unhappy customers to thousands or tens of thousands of potential customers.

This adds an incredible amount of pressure to your business to make sure every customer experienced is a positive customer experience, and every customer review is a positive customer review.

Here are seven rules to help you influence how customers review your brand:

1. Perfection is impossible

One of the most important lessons you can learn from customer reviews is that there will always be problems, and there will always be mistakes. Embrace your mistakes, and learn from them to improve your products, your brand, and your customer experienced. A key part of this is to encourage customer feedback, and to see any negative reviews as a learning opportunity and an opportunity for improvement.

2. Communication is key

Make it easy for customers to contact you. Actively seek out and promote customer feedback - by prominently display comment or support e-mail and phone numbers on your packaging and website, for instance - and let customers know that feedback is both welcome and will be acted upon. Customers need to know that their concerns are important to you. Don't take the bad reviews but engage with the customers that are being reasonable to show you are willing deal with issues openly.

3. Turn customers into brand advocates

Customers are your best brand advocates, and nothing sells your brand quite like word-of-mouth from satisfied customers. Encourage your customers to share their brand experience with other potential customers. Customer referral programs, in which customers are rewarded with discounts or other small tokens of appreciation for spreading your message, are effective ways to encourage brand advocacy.

4. Be responsive

All too often, the first inkling you will have that a customer had a bad experience with your company or your brand will be in the form of bad review on social media site or a product review site. When this happens, your first responsibility as a business owner is to contact the customer and make it right. Your best and most devoted advocates are often customers who started out with a bad experience with your brand, only to have it turned around by a positive customer experience.

5. Leverage the power of social media

Social media can be a powerful tool to encourage customer feedback and customer involvement. Use social media to connect with your customers and to humanize your brand and your company. Make customers part of your brand story on social media. This can be as simply featuring customer profiles, customer feedback, or customer photos in your social media feed and will encourage customers to see you as a partner rather than just another vendor.

6. Your failures are often opportunities in disguise

Businesses make mistakes. The difference between successful businesses and unsuccessful businesses is often the difference between businesses who see mistakes as opportunities - and those that hide their mistakes and fail to learn from them. Products fail to live up to expectations, marketing can go awry, mistakes happen in the ordering process. The key to moving past this is admit your mistake, and work with your customers to correct it. You can garner enormous customer good will by simply admitting your mistake and exceeding customer expectations in resolving it.

7. Dedication to positive customer experience begins with you

Controlling brand perception, building positive customer experience, and encouraging customer feedback is a continuous, ongoing project. It is vitally important that every employee at every level of your enterprise remains dedicated to the proposition that your success depends on quality products that yield positive customer experiences. Any decisions that affect product quality or branding message need to be prefaced with one simple question: 'How will this affect the customer experience?'

Published on: Nov 2, 2016
Like this column? Sign up to subscribe to email alerts and you'll never miss a post.