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Before Google My Business became popular and Yelp came into existence, businesses rarely cared about what people said about them. During the days of My Space and Orkut, online reputation management for corporations was unheard of.
Now, if you own a website, you better run daily checks to find out if someone in some obscure corner of the web is saying something negative about your business. Words like “fraud,” “scam,” “sucks,” and “rip-off” are coffin nails for businesses. There is nothing an entrepreneur dreads more than negative reviews and pissed off customers!
What is reputation management?
Yes, all companies make mistakes. Sometimes, deliveries are late, or the kitchen confuses orders. These are honest mistakes that happen more frequently than most businesses like to admit because these are instances that can make or break a company.
Sometimes, these reviews are justified, and they can help a company improve its services. Then there are reviews on national monuments and national parks. There’s a stellar review on the Eiffel Tower from a genuine tourist that reads, “…see the city of Paris from a great height. Big whoop!” Now, as hilarious as these reviews are, when they are not about a national monument, but a small restaurant or bar next to the memorial, it can have a significant impact on the tourist crowd it attracts.
Online reputation protection and management is not a one-time investment. It is a long-term strategy that can fortify your brand against threats to its reputation shortly. It involves nurturing your brand’s online identity to immunize its repute.
Negative reviews can come when you least expect them. They can be well-deserved or downright unfair. Nonetheless, you cannot delete what’s already on the web. Whatever your customers post about you, you will forever remain alive on the internet.
Therefore, instead of thinking about ways to efface these negative remarks about your business, products, and services, you need to think about managing their visibility. You cannot always control what people say about your business, but you can forever control how you react to their remarks.
While negative comments and critical reviews can make anyone defensive, the business owner must realize that responding harshly to these reviews will build their brand more visible to their existing customers and potential buyers. Statistics show that more than 89% of a brand’s existing customers will see poorly worded responses to criticizing comments. That will influence these customers’ decisions of doing business with a brand.
Why is reputation management important for every brand?
In tricky situations like these, you need the assistance of people who have already handled negative reviews and angry reviewers. You need a team that can make “all of it go away” as soon as possible. In short, you need dedicated reputation management services for your brand from experts in SEO and digital marketing.
Customers buy from brands they trust
People only spend their money on a brand they find trustworthy. Building trust and loyalty take significantly more than time and money. According to a study by Harvard Business School, every additional star on Yelp can boost your revenue by at least 5% to 9%.
Ignoring negative feedback from consumers isn’t the smart way to go about managing your reputation. People love to believe whatever they read on the web ranging from the Loch ness monster sightings to UFO conspiracy theories. Bad reviews are more believable than them, and more than 66% of all customers rely on such reviews before going into business with a new brand.
97% of the customers check out details about companies online before they spend their money. So, if you do nothing about the mean comments and angry rants, all your future customers will find these the moment they search for your business online.
Reputation management is not just crucial for online businesses or enterprises with an online presence. You might be a family-owned business that has been running successfully for generations without opening an online front. Even then, you will need to worry about what people are associating with your brand name online.
Since you don’t have an online presence, you don’t own social media pages or profiles on third-party review sites. However, that does not stop consumers or unscrupulous reviewers from badmouthing your brand. It helps if you have a dedicated team who can pull up the Google search results against your brand name, business, and location from time to time, to check if your reputation needs some management.
Everyone knows the horror story of Long’s Jewelers, the family-owned jewelry shop in Boston that has been catering to a sophisticated and dedicated clientele for more than a century. On November 6, 2016, the brand experienced a deluge of horrible 1-star reviews only days after revamping their social media profiles.
Investigations showed that these reviews came from fake profiles, but the company’s ratings on Facebook fell from 4.8 to a bleak 2.3 stars within a day. They lost hundreds of customers and millions in sales that year due to a few fake bad reviews.
To prevent a fiasco, every business should arm itself with a team of experts trained in reputation management and protection. Had Long Jewelers had such a team, maybe they could implement damage control much earlier, and the losses would have been lesser.
How can you manage negative reviews smartly and subtly?
We often hear company owners and managers say that they will see these fake reviewers and defamers in court. However, we must not forget that everyone can have their opinions. Nothing is stopping them from sharing what they think about business, and even if you do manage to take a reviewer to court, you end up deterring thousands of potential positive reviewers and paying customers from visiting your establishment.
At the same time, whether an online review counts as defamation or slander can take months, if not years, to decide in court. Even with the best corporate attorney by your side, you might be looking at a lawsuit that can last years, resulting in a significant loss of resources, time, and energy!
Here are the seven strategies that work for managing negative comments
- Always provide stellar service
Know how this sounds, but bear with us! People love freebies and little compliments. So, if you are afraid of receiving negative reviews from a group, go ahead and throw in a free drink, dessert, or complementary products (depending on your service).
- A touch of personalization to the freebies. Since the client is always right, they might as be happy when they leave your premises.
- You need to step down and accept the blame even though the client is wrong. There are times when businesses have had to offer complete refunds to soothe an angry client to prevent him or her from going to the likes of the Ripoff Report.
- Claim your social media profiles
- The longer you leave the social front unattended, the longer you will risk not knowing about all the slander that goes on about your brand online.
- Your social media profile and GMB pages give you the chance to post promotional stuff. You can re-post positive reviews, post-customer-generated content, and create traffic of positive content that can drown out negative comments quite easily.
- Be pro-active about gathering reviews
- You are trying to establish a strong reputation for your business, and you need to consider reaching out to genuine customers for their remarks. Guaranteed, not all, will be inspiring and positive, but most of them will bear a semblance of truth.
- can post QR codes, bar codes, and URL links of your site, and review pages throughout your establishment. Many restaurants and bars include QR codes in their coasters, napkin holders, menu cards, and even interior décor for the same purposes.
- Ask for your client/guest’s opinions once they are ready to leave.
- Offer incentives
- The fake reviews that several sellers on Amazon are generating by offering “secret” coupon codes in exchange for positive reviews, you can post promotional offers on your social media profile that involve one free drink for reviewers the next time they visit, one complementary entre or a gift box (depending on the nature of your business).
- Should remember that offering incentives for reviews are against Yelp’s policy. So be very clear about offering incentives for specific review platforms only. Or, you may end up losing traffic and receiving a warning from Yelp.
- Take the matter offline
- is the one thing every customer loves? Freebies!
- You see an unhappy customer escalating things beyond reasonable management capabilities, step in, and offer a refund. Forget discounts and gifts. Simply don’t charge them for the services!
- You may end up losing a few dollars (or even a couple of hundreds), it will add to your brand value and reputation in the long run. Refunds can always help in mitigating customer disputes.
- The experienced entrepreneur has at least one consumer whose review has gone up from 1-star to 4-star after a partial or full refund.
- Monitor employee complaint/review platforms
- Rumors begin from within the enterprise, and the negativity keeps circulating among the consumers too.
- You see a flurry of adverse reports and bad ratings out of nowhere containing remarks along the lines of “mistreats employees,” you need to begin your search at employee review platforms like Glassdoor.
- All disputes with your employees privately and let your reputation management team deal with the defamatory remarks on the third-party review websites.
- Use review generating platforms
- Businesses invest in the services of reviews generating platforms. The basics of the process are straightforward – you can collect the client/guest/customer’s contact details as they leave, and you can follow up with a correct email or SMS in one or two days.
- The message should ask about their experience. If they respond negatively, you can try to remedy the situation by offering them another evening at your establishment or gifts or refunds.
- With review generation platforms like Shout About Us and GatherUp offers the chance to businesses to vet each customer before they can post the actual review on sites like Google Maps and Yelp.
Being pro-active always helps in gathering positive reviews and deterring fake reviewers from posting demeaning comments on business review websites.
What can you do if your reputation is already terrible?
More than 58% of business executives believe that they need to improve their online reputation management strategies. Sadly, only around 15% of these people go ahead and do something about it.
Right now, it is impossible to locate a brand that has not experienced the wrath of unsatisfied and furious customers. Uber, Lyft, Dominos, KFC, and Wendy’s have a prolific online presence. They monitor their social media presence by the hour. Even then, they have to deal with berating comments and reviews from consumers.
People who read these comments are mostly potential consumers, who feel the urgency to seek out similar but competing businesses upon reading negative reviews. Even the leading billion-dollar corporations manage to lose out millions every year due to negative reviews.
If your reputation sucks, we believe it is redeemable. No matter how many bad reviews you have and horrible ratings have found their way to your business profile, there is more than one way to improve the situation. If negative comments have been collecting for a while, it might take some additional time for the experts to find all of their locations and respective sources and then create positive content to drown out the negativity associated with your brand.
All in all, all hope is not lost when you are working with an experienced reputation management company. It will be a test of your patience. Still, a team of professional SEO experts and digital marketers, with experience in reputation management can bring back your brand’s lost glory and the lost sales.
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Business Reputation Management for Businesses