Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Can Facebook Damage Your Company?

Unless you’ve been under a rock lately, you know that there have been several high profile examples of large companies whose reputations have taken a significant hit. They have seen their reputations and customer goodwill plunge.

What about small to medium sized companies? Aren’t they immune from the attention of the national press because they are below the radar? What if I told you that a small firm in Kalamazoo, Michigan; T & J Towing, now has an international reputation as a disreputable company because of Facebook?

College student Justin Kurtz reports that he had a permit and his car was properly parked at his apartment complex when T & J Towing took it. He insists that they scraped off his permit when they impounded his car. After T & J refused to refund his impound fees, Kurtz set up the Facebook page: Kalamazoo Residents against T&J Towing

As of this morning, Kurtz’s Facebook page had over 10,000 members. Forget about who’s right or wrong in this story, the lawsuits (also viewable on Facebook) should resolve that question. You need to know how to keep this from happening to your business. Here are some thoughts:

1. Resolve customer complaints as soon as possible - one angry customer will tell more people about your business than 10 happy ones.

2. Always assume your actions will be made public – and act accordingly. In this day of video taping cell phones, Facebook, Twitter, and Youtube, assume that what you do will be available to the world. (this was an especially big deal for Joe Biden)

3. Don’t lie or keep secrets – nothing stays secret for very long, right Tiger?

4. Build your reputation over the long term – loyal customers will stick with you. Angry ones will join the mob on Facebook.

Companies that have spent years working to develop a good reputation can recover their customer confidence. T & J may have a bigger struggle. Rated an “F” company by the Better Business Bureau for unresolved complaints, they have a long road to hoe if they ever hope to rebuild their reputation and regain the trust of their customers.

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