5 Strategies for Managing Your Business’ Reputation Online
5 Strategies for Managing Your Business’ Reputation Online
Picture this scenario. One day when you’ve got a little free time (a true rarity), you load up Yelp and type in the name of your business, just to see what people have been saying about you. But rather than taking a nice peruse of 5-star ratings, what you encounter instead is every business owner’s worst nightmare: bad reviews. In fact, a wider Google search shows your business is now directly linked with terms like “terrible,” “don’t use,” and a few less than appropriate words we won’t use here. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to determine that this is not a good situation. With customers turning to online reviews more than ever, just one angry customer can mean a loss of business. Let’s take a look at a few key strategies for preventing this situation from happening in the first place and for mitigating it when it does.
1. Sign up for Review and Social Media Sites
When it comes to online reputation management, it’s important to accept the fact that customers will review your services somewhere, whether you want them to or not. It’s far better to provide them with the space to do so rather than letting them loose to say whatever they like in any random subterranean internet niche, where, if you can even find the review at all, you may not be able to respond. Creating accounts on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter is essential for this, as customers often turn here first to make their complaints. What’s more, both platforms make conversations relatively casual and easy, so you can quickly engage in satisfying exchanges. In a wider sense, empowering reviews on social media speaks to the larger community building so important to promoting your business online. Of course, claiming your business on review sites is also essential, as customers turn to directly to these sites to make purchasing decisions. Claiming your business means you’ll always know what people are saying about you. What’s more, if you optimize your Yelp page for the search engines, it can actually be a great way to generate business in the first place. In this way, taking control of review platforms is essential not only in mitigating the impact of bad reviews but also in extending your online presence.
2. Be Quick and Helpful in Your Response
The only thing worse than not responding to complaints is taking forever to address them — no matter how ridiculous they may be. In fact, the longer that bad review stays up there without a response, the guiltier you look. That said, there’s not much use in responding with a cookie cutter cliche that doesn’t do much for the customer, like, “We’re so sorry that this was your experience! Know that this doesn’t represent our business at all.” Well, actually, it does represent your business in this instance, and by saying that without offering anything further, you’re actually dismissing rather than validating the complaint. Instead, expand those two sentences by asking for more details or, if you already know them, by offering an explanation (as long as it’s not defensive). Then, no matter what approach you take, make sure to offer the customer something of real value, like 5% off their next service, or a coupon for their next purchase. Remember that your response isn’t just about pleasing the complaining customer but is also about demonstrating who you are and what you do to anyone who reads the review. One of the best responses we’ve ever seen on Yelp was given by a vet, responding to a distraught owner of a cat who had died despite all of the vet’s best efforts to keep him alive. The vet responded empathetically while also detailing all that he had done for the cat and explaining why he had decided on each measure he took. Thanks to this complete response, it was clear that not only had the vet done all that he could have for his patient, but that he also had expert knowledge, thought deeply about his medical decisions and had an excellent bedside manner. In this way, a 1-star review generated the kind of 5-star response that is sure to win over new customers. What more could you ask for?
3. Invest in Review Monitoring Software
If you’re really concerned about your online reputation, then reputation monitoring software might be well worth the investment (though buyer beware, they can get pretty pricy). These tools track mentions of your brand across social media and the internet at large, often via powerful natural language processors. However, these tools tend not to be as essential if you’re running a smaller business with a small reach, as long as you’ve claimed your business on review sites and are active on social media.
4. Encourage Reviews
Online as in life, oftentimes the people who are most motivated to write a review are people who had a bad experience. Are they really the people to whom you want to hand over control of your business’ reputation? Don’t let the squeaky wheel get all of the grease. Instead, encourage all of your customers to leave reviews by giving them incentives like gift cards or a free appointment. Note: These type of incentives are frowned upon on review sites like Yelp, but some sites like CitySearch have more relaxed policies on giving incentives for reviews so make sure to be specific about where you’d like a review. At any rate, if you are encouraging reviews from all of your customers, at least some of those reviews will be good, and they’ll far outweigh the bad in the end.
5. Provide Good Service
The heart of the matter is this: reputation management only works if you actually care about your reputation. To do this, you have to care about the quality of the services you provide and see customers as more than dollar bills. Truly managing your business’ online reputation begins with showing up to the job when scheduled, listening to your customers’ problems and offering solutions, and just generally doing an outstanding job. Of course, you can’t please everybody and you’re bound to encounter someone who will complain through the best service you’ve ever provided, in which case you will definitely need to take the steps listed above. But even in that scenario, that one bad review will have a lot less impact if it’s surrounded by glowing reviews, which can only be generated with the good will that comes from good service. What steps do you take to manage the reputation of your business online? Let us know in the comments below.