Whether you have been a business owner for years or just recently opened your doors to the world, how much time and effort do you put into your online reputation?

If you have trouble answering that question, you could find yourself with more problems than you truly want. As many who run companies can attest to, it just takes one bad online experience to turn their business world upside down.

Before the advent of the Internet, business owners typically only had to deal with negative customer experiences in a handful of ways, most notably in-person encounters, a phone call or perhaps a letter. Now, however, the Internet has opened up an entire new world of communication, some of which is not always good for those who run companies.

More Shoppers Going Online These Days

In the event you have not given thought to how your online reputation could impact your ability to promote your brand, consider these factors:

  • Shoppers go online – A number of reports indicate that more and more consumers are taking their shopping efforts online. According to a recent Safe Home Products survey, 96 percent of those responding indicated they shop online for convenience, while 91 percent of shoppers go online for researching purposes. With that in mind, is your online reputation really what you want it to be (see below) moving forward?
  • Brandings bits – If you’ve ever had a run-in with a disgruntled customer, you know that such an experience can have negative consequences. For example, say a customer is unhappy with you over a pricing issue, when and how an order was suppose to be delivered, or an exchange they had with one of your employees. Any of these scenarios can end up having a negative impact on your brand, especially when it plays out online (see below).
  • Online offenses – Even in cases where you feel you and/or your team are right when it comes to a customer issue, by no means take a negative tone with that customer online. From online forums to social media pages, engaging in a negative manner with a customer can do more harm than good for your business. Let the customer have their say if they go online to address a problem they had with your business, then respond in a positive manner, asking them how you can help them rectify the problem to their approval. If you choose to go negative, your brand can suffer as other current or even potential customers will think twice about dealing with you moving forward.
  • Be a problem solver – Finally, use any online encounters with customers to solve their problems, not add to them or yours for that matter. Whether through direct contact on a social media page or through an educational blog post, look to solve the problem as soon as possible. In the event you choose to ignore the matter, you could see your online reputation take a hit, as some consumers will see you as just someone out to make a dollar, not assist them en route to making money.
  • You should always be working to improve your online reputation as a business owner, even when you think it can’t get any better. With the right attention to detail, how you and your business are viewed online could help you ring up more sales in 2013.