According to market research firm Ipsos, 78 percent of Americans say that online reviews influence their purchases. So, for this reason alone, online reputation management is critical for your business.
Sites such as Yelp, UrbanSpoon, and Yahoo! Local allow customers to post online business reviews. Even Facebook has integrated reviews with its business pages. Everywhere we turn we are surrounded by reviews, which is a good thing, right? For the most part. The problem is that customers sometimes post negative reviews.
A negative review isn’t fun to handle, but there are ways to manage your reputation online to attract customers, despite having a negative review.
Automatic Reputation Monitoring Tools
Automatic monitoring is one way to manage your online reputation. Google and Bing send alerts when your business is mentioned on the web. It is possible to do the searches yourself, but Google and Bing will do the work for you; thus, saving you valuable time.
For example, Google alerts sends an automatic message when your business is mentioned in a review, blog, or an online publication. Once you receive the alert, you can view where your business is mentioned and decide what action to take depending on the mention.
Do-It-Yourself Reputation Monitoring Tools
In addition to Google and Bing alerts there are other ways to monitor your online reputation. Some of these tools include:
With these two sites, and others like them, you have to enter your business name, and the search engine looks through blogs and posts for any mention of the name of your business. Then, the results are shown.
Who’s Talkin’ is a social media tool in which you can search for when your business is used on the web. It searches blogs, news, networks, videos, images, forums, and tags for mention of your business.
Similar to Who’s Talkin’, with SocialMention, you type in the name of your business, and the search engine will bring up all the times your business is mentioned on the web. This site will also show video and blog mentions of your business.
In addition, it will tell you the percentage that the comments were positive, negative, or neutral. It will also mention the top users who have mentioned your business in its posting.
Give Customers a Chance to Leave Honest Feedback
It is important that customers are given a chance to provide feedback on the service that your business provides. To do this, create a technical support forum or create easy to access contact forms on your website.
If customers have an easy place in which to give feedback, they are less likely to post negative feedback on a public site, but instead contact you directly.
In addition, providing a place for feedback is an opportunity for you to learn and improve, but mainly, it is an opportunity for you to publicly handle a complaint and in doing so, earn and not lose credibility. It also gives you the opportunity to see where to make improvements in your business.
Positive Feedback on a Public Forum Helps
Despite doing your best to get customers to provide feedback on your website, a customer may still post negative feedback on a public forum.
On the other hand, lots of positive reviews can have the opposite effect. A potential customer may say, “Well, this seems to be a rare complaint. It is possible the customer was having a bad day. Who knows?”
Emphasizing excellence in customer service with every one of your employees can help ensure that customers who do decide to leave a review will have good things to say.
As a result, the positive reviews weigh more heavily on the final decision than the negative review.
Responding to Negative Feedback
Whether a customer makes a complaint on your website or a public forum, it is important that you respond to the negative complaint. When responding, however, it is important to keep your cool and not respond in anger or haste.
Take a deep breath, take a walk, talk to a co-worker. Do whatever it takes for you to step back from the situation and then respond. The key to handling these situations is to have an online reputation policy already in place before you receive a complaint.
Once you are ready to respond, offer a sincere response because customers can tell when a business is not sincere. Then, offer to make things right.
If a customer has made a complaint on a public site, you should also respond. You can contact the customer privately and offer to make amends, or you can contact the customer on the public forum where the complaint was posted.
In general, when responding, the negative review needs to be acknowledged, and make yourself available by all means possible (phone, email, website). Take the opportunity to learn more about what happened, neither admitting nor denying the wrongdoing. If you have this information available, contact the review writer privately over the phone or email.
Also, once your have reached out and resolved the issue, ask the customer whether the issue was resolved. If they say yes, tell them it would be great if they could write an update/follow up to their review and send the direct link to them. Sometimes they will even delete a bad review entirely if they feel they wrote it too hastily.
By doing this, you are demonstrating that you care about this customer’s business, and you want them to be as satisfied as possible with your company.
Lastly, it is not necessary to respond to cyber bullies or to someone who are making inflammatory posts. In these cases, a response can encourage them because they are receiving the attention that they crave.
In the end, when it comes to online reputation management, the rules that apply to the real world also apply online. Treat your customers with respect and the importance that they deserve, and they will be far more likely to react positively to your attempts to fix the problem.
Good reviews come from good service and good products. It is a matter of integrity and professionalism.