I continue to be more and more convinced that reputation management is one of the most important areas marketers have to manage. Unfortunately most organizations fall into one of two camps when it comes to maintaining their reputation - they either think it's just an outgrowth of their day to day (i.e. they have no control over it) or they freak out when they have negative issues come up. Both are terribly bad ways to guard one of your most important assets, so let's dive in to what makes for good reputation management.
Obviously the first step is doing the things that set the foundation for a good reputation. I was lucky enough to start my career at FedEx, one of the world's most admired companies. In every training and orientation class there was a strong emphasis on people, service and what you need to do to satisfy your customers - whether they are external or internal. If you don't have a specific, well understood concept of customer service or a solid construct of your preferred customer experience take the time to develop that by looking to the companies you admire, emulating their best qualities and applying them to your business model. A defined set of service principals will give your organization the direction and specificity it needs to create positive customer experiences.
The next thing to do is to make sure that you are creating a feedback loop for your customers. Whether it's an online form, a follow up call, or the old comment box by the register, you need to make it easy for them to provide feedback. Burying your head in the sand about your business will only lead to bad things. I always say that getting feedback, whether good or bad, is fine - not getting any feedback means you have no idea what's going on. You may not like the bad but it will make you better and you would rather fix the problem early rather than when it becomes pervasive.
You also need to highlight the positive and deal with the negative. If you're lucky enough to have a lot of 5 star ratings make sure that's highlighted in your marketing, but in today's online culture how you deal with the negative comments is just as important. You need to steer into the negative, understand what happened and do your best to publicly remedy the situation. Current and future customers will notice that effort and hold it in your favor. People today look at the totality of reviews as much as the comments of a few crackpots. Some issues you just can't fix, but if the positive experiences with your firm significantly outweigh the negative ones you are well on your way to effective reputation management.
Finally, make sure your are incorporating changes based on the feedback you get. It may make sense to have a quarterly customer satisfaction meeting to take all the comments and see if there are any trends that need attention - both good and bad. You can make a positive impact over time if you do the things that highlight the successes and address the failures. The more positive comments you get will offset the hopefully few negative ones.
Make sure you are taking an active role in managing your business reputation. If you don't manage it it will certainly manage you and your business into a position you probably won't like.