Managing Your Online Reputation

Did you know that 97% of US consumers look at online reviews about local businesses?

According to Forbes, about 90% of global sales still happen in physical stores, but 97% of consumers use the internet to find local businesses and three in four people who use their smartphones to search for something nearby end up visiting a local business within a day.

Keep in mind, 90% of customers say that what they decide to buy is influenced by positive online reviews, and 94% will use a business with at least four stars. Since you run a small business, the very best thing you can do to attract more customers is to maintain a high star-rating on the most popular review sites.

And, you have more control of your online star ratings than you know. First, you can proactively encourage your customers to post reviews about their experience — 68% of customers will leave a review if asked. This activates your happiest customers, buries any unfair negative reviews and ensures that your business’ “review ratio” is healthy.

Second, you can use online reviews to uncover any legitimate blind spots and show acts of good faith for all the public to see. Engaging with dissatisfied customers in online review forums can actually lead to repeat business, and up to 70% of complaining customers will give the business another shot if their concerns are resolved.

So, how to get started? There are 5 basic steps:

1. Determine which platforms your consumers are using the most and which are the most influential to your business.

2. Make sure you have an active account on each of these platforms, have full control over your business pages, and understand each platform’s policies.

3. Go through all existing reviews, making sure to flag inappropriate or spam reviews and respond to any negative feedback.

4. Try to do this at least once a week and create a formal process for someone to easily follow, so they can assist you and make sure the management is happening.

5. Come up with a comprehensive strategy to increase your positive reviews and make responding to negative reviews successful. Video reviews can be especially effective, but you can also solicit reviews and feedback via email or social media.

But Now You Have A Negative Review.

The Web has given people enormous power to damage a brand. Negative reviews on sites like Yelp or Angie’s List can crush a business.

And let’s face it, nobody likes to be criticized. If you are in business, though, it’s going to happen. How you react to criticism can make the difference between a meaningless annoyance and a full-blown crisis.

Step 1: Stop & Think.

The key here is to keep a cool head and analyze the situation. Contact the Home Office immediately, and we’ll help you with the best course of action. And while there is no one right way of responding, we have a few things for you to think about before reacting:

Are the negative statements true? If so, deal with the issue.

Social media provides tremendous customer service tools. Acknowledge your fault and spell out how you will rectify the situation. When possible, take the conversation offline. If the issue has criminal or civil implications, check with your attorney before taking any action.

Who is the source of the negative comments? This is hugely important.

If it is one unhappy customer and you have dozens of positive testimonials or reviews, it may be better just to ignore it.
If it is a journalist or blogger, then it is important to engage him/her. Show your respect. See if you can find a way to change their mind. If you have gotten positive reviews from other journalists or bloggers, those can outweigh one of two negative statements.
If it is a disgruntled former employee, then that statement can be overwhelmed by positive reviews from other employees.

Are the statements libelous?

Some people approach social media as the Wild West, where rules and laws don’t apply. The fact is – laws do apply. If the attack on you or your business is libelous, we’ll help you determine if you should take action. Sometimes sending a cease and desist letter is enough to get the offending posts or comments removed.

Step 2: Be Civil

There is a reason why they call it social media. The Web is a place where communities are created, where conversations take place and where relationships are established. As in any community or relationship, there will be disputes. Handle them professionally, civilly, with grace and even with humor.

This will humanize you and your business and serve to establish you as positive member of the community.

Step 3: Learn from the Experience

Conversations on the Web are always evolving. As in any crisis situation, try to learn from your mistakes and use that knowledge to improve the way you do business. If there were complaints about your services or your employees, take those complaints to heart.

Think of social media as a massive focus group. Criticism can be very healthy for a business owner. It can provide a wake-up call and it can be a great test of your customer service, your flexibility and your leadership. The key is how you respond – and the Home Office is here to help you navigate the situation.
Have you had to deal with a negative review? What steps did you take, what did you learn, and how did it turn out? Please share your story with us so the rest of the network can learn from your experience: