Reputation Management for the Long Haul: The College Pro Interview

Ten years ago, reputation management was a lot more simple. A disgruntled customer’s review would briefly hit the spotlight, and then vanish forever. These days, this review would be cataloged by one of the various review engines and saved for anyone who ever wanted to look into your business. Because of this heightened impact of reviews, both good and bad, more and more companies are beginning to think carefully about their reputation management strategy.   With a 40 year history and 40,000 homes painted annually, College Pro Painters has become a continent-wide company. They have an ever-revolving base of new student-painters, and a sizeable client base. Naturally, they know a little something about reputation management. We got together with College Pro President Dave Rychley to talk with him about the power a brand can have, and the importance of reputation management can have for you and your business.   As with any company, College Pro’s brand management starts with an insistence on quality service. Simply put, if the vast majority of customers aren’t walking away from your service satisfied, no amount of reputation management will be able to help you. “We focus on doing quality work and having good communication with our customers.  We believe that doing a good job and communicating strongly will ensure a strong reputation,” says Dave Rychley. College Pro’s student-painters change every year, so to keep quality consistent, the company puts a lot of emphasis on training the incoming class on how to keep up with the company’s standards.   After a standard of quality is established, it’s time to tackle your company’s specific reputation challenges. In the case of College Pro, they found the reputation in their home country of Canada had a good foundation, but had trouble gaining traction in the US. To stimulate referral rates, College Pro started issuing a survey upon the completion of every job. “Since we began to track customer surveys, our customer satisfaction rating (percentage of customers that say ‘yes’ to the question:   “Will you recommend College Pro Painters to your family and friends”) has consistently been over 95% annually,” says Rychley. Through the encouraging of referrals, College Pro has now established a strong brand in certain US cities, like Seattle and Minneapolis.   But these traditional strategies don’t mean that College Pro has been blind to the shift to online review culture. The company keeps a close eye on its online presence, and advocate a proactive strategy of engaging with negative reviews. Dave says, “We are not a large company with a lot of resources, therefore, we have to constantly monitor and strategically respond to anything online that can damage our reputation.” However, College Pro takes the engagement offline: “We prefer to take any disputes or issues off-line and work with people 1-on-1 when they have a complaint.  We have successfully turned unsatisfied customers into promoters using this strategy.”   By staying mindful of their brand’s reputation, College Pro has managed to grow into the most successful student painting franchise. As you consider your own company’s growth opportunities, think about the ways in which you are already protecting your reputation and how these can be optimized.  
  Interviewee: Dave Rychley, President College Pro Painters   Dave Rychley President of College ProDave Rychley is currently the President of College Pro Painters (US).  He has been in this role since the fall of 2010 and is now in his 17th year with the company.   Prior to becoming President, Dave was a Franchisee, General Manager, and Vice President with College Pro.  Dave is a 1999 graduate of the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, MN where he majored in Business with a Finance emphasis.  Dave lives in Elmhurst, IL (a suburb of Chicago) with his wife of 9 years (Sarah) and two children (Jack – 7 and Emma – 4). [templatera id=”10393″]

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