nine-ways-to-improve-your-business-imageMay is International Business Image Improvement Month. In honor of that, I thought I’d tweet out an article on the subject. But when I did a search for “how to improve your business image,” all the articles I found contained such hackneyed advice as, “Be active on social media,” “Update your website,” “Launch an ad campaign,” “Use PR,” and ‘Target influencers.”

While those admonitions are not necessarily bad—and in fact, excellent companies do those things regularly—they’re not actually going to help you if your business isn’t already outstanding. If your company has issues—and nearly all companies do—the above advice is akin to putting a fresh coat of paint on house that’s leaning to one side, with broken windows and doors, in the middle of a mosquito-infested swamp.

If you really want to improve your business image—and thus, your sales—you  need to improve your business. And specifically, your customer experience. Because your image is defined by your customers, not by you.

Here are nine things you can do to improve how prospects and customers think of you.

1. Get Your Customers’ Viewpoint
The first thing you need to know is how your customers currently think and feel about you. So ask them. Create focus groups. Conduct surveys. Hire a mystery shopping firm. Discover the good, the bad, and the ugly about your company through your buyers’ eyes.

2. Hire More People
There are very few universal laws, but one of them is: Everybody hates waiting. Every minute a prospect or customer has to wait, the less they like you. (And one of the things consumers share with a vengeance on social media is how long they’ve been waiting in line or on hold.) So hire enough people to staff your call center, your checkout lanes, your office, to get their wait times as close to zero as possible.

3. Train Your People
Perhaps the only thing worse for a customer than not having enough people to serve them, is having to deal with an employee who doesn’t know what the hell they’re doing. Provide continual training for your people. And not just on your product or service! Train them on communication skills, customer service skills, teamwork, technology, creativity, leadership, problem solving, and more. The more skilled your employees are, the better they’ll perform, and the happier customers will be.

4. Empower Employees
Training employees doesn’t do much good if they aren’t allowed to use their skills. Too many companies withhold the power to take care of customers from the people who most closely interact with them. When an employee isn’t allowed to solve a customer’s problem, both parties get frustrated at your company. Give your people the power to do whatever it takes to resolve customer issues quickly and easily. Buyers respect and appreciate it.

5. Appreciate Employees
Just as customers don’t like being taken for granted, neither do employees. And when employee morale is low, they don’t serve customers well. Take great care of your employees and they’ll take great care of your customers.

6. Keep It Clean
The cleanliness of your facility speaks volumes to prospects and customers about your attention to detail and your care for people’s health and comfort. That includes everything from your front entrance to your bathrooms.

7. Improve Your Product Quality
There are a number of businesses that I will probably never patronize again, regardless of their social media activity, ad campaigns, websites, or PR. Because their product sucks. How good are your products or services compared with your competition? How can you make them better?

8. Correct Other Issues
What other problems did you uncover in your customer research? What else bugs them or prevents them from buying more from you. Deal with those issues, whether that means streamlining processes or redoing your website or remodeling your facility.

9. Admit Your Failings
Once you’ve improved in the above areas, then you can launch a PR/advertising/social media campaign. But the first thing you need to do in those campaigns is to admit your problems. People value honesty and authenticity. A good mea culpa goes a long way. Then you can communicate what you’ve done to improve and invite people to experience the new you.

Your business image is not like a pair of shoes that you can simply shine up with a can of polish. You’re creating your business image every single day, with every single thing you do, both positive and negative. Create more positive experiences for your customers and they’ll have a more positive image of you.

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