A friend and I were talking the other day about branding, reputation, and reviews and she said something that was incredibly simple and also amazingly profound. I really love when that happens – when someone can utter a few words that solidify your thinking and make it all the more concrete, while making you feel as if you should have thought of it all along.

So, to cut to the chase – we were talking about the really great responses we had seen to challenging reviews and how powerful they were in overturning an initially negative impression. You have to remember that we are both in the online review industry and we see lots of challenging review from consumers. Some business owners ignore them and hope they go away, some flip their lids and try and have the feedback removed, some respond to the feedback in a way that is scary and off-putting, and some reply in such a way that they beat a path to their door.

She said, “Reputation is determined by how others perceive it, not how you would like them to. You don’t get to be in charge of how others should think.” Bingo, that’s in a nutshell and it says absolutely everything about reviews and reputation. Reviews are reflections of experiences that create reputations and that perception is framed by others.

Now that’s something that lots of business owners understand and also something that some don’t. The ones that fail to grasp that are the ones who then lose the opportunities that arise when challenging feedback is posted. They go mad, chucking all the toys out of the cot – blaming the reviewers and the platforms the feedback is posted on. They will threaten and cajole and bully – all in the hope of altering the reality of how they are seen.

Essentially, they can not grasp that the perception they have in their head of their business, products and services, is not what others perceive.  So instead of thinking, “hold on, I need to make some changes here. I need to make things right with this customer because my business failed them”, they go on the attack and scare potential customers away, You could say if that’s how they are then perhaps it’s good that they affirm challenging views and what they express by acting in the same way, and you’re right but everyone can turn things around.

A reputation is not a physically tangible thing. It can not be held, it can not be carried around, or polished to show others. It is made by others, it is built upon by the views of customers and the stories of their experiences. It is represented by words, by percentage points and by stars. It is tangible by representation.

And business owners have huge amounts of control over it. Surprisingly, some think they don’t and imagine they are victims of the untruths of their customers but they are wrong. Control starts with a solid business that is open to change and criticism. Control resides in the hands of the business owners and staff that aim to do well and meet and exceed the expectations of their clientele. Furthermore – control is all about proactively dealing with challenging feedback by attempting to resolve the issue(s) raised and penning a thoughtful, concise, and open response.