It was over a year ago when I wrote last about online reputation management. This topic is gaining more popularity so it’s only fitting to update this post to see what is going on now. Online Reputation Management, in my opinion, is the going to be so critical to local businesses that there will be positions within marketing companies, or companies themselves that do ONLY Online Reputation Management.
I think there’s a fear about Online Reputation Management. It consists of people opinionated enough to post something good or bad about your business. We love positive reviews. We feel the pat on the back and get a spring in the step to continue on. Woo!
But what about a negative review? I have come across the following emotions:
1. “It might be a competitor!”
One nasty technique in Local SEO is to bomb competitors with false negative reviews. Not only does this lower your own standards, it creates havoc on “best practices” that the SEO industry is trying to establish. So, anyway, you think it’s a competitor? Oh those tricky devils! Who is it? You can’t tell! Also, the people searching for you will read the review and they have no idea who wrote it.
2. “It might be a former employee!”
Again, like #1, it doesn’t matter to the general public.
3. “No one reads those things…”
The power of the review rests in the how much the average searcher relies on reviews of local businesses. Do people believe these semi-anonymous posts? Yeah, they do!
Now that we’ve explored the three forms of denial concerning negative reviews, let’s take the steps needed to deal with them.
Step 1. Accept the fact that someone somewhere screwed up.
We’re all human, but businesses are expected to be flawless and fair even though these business are run by flawed and unfair humans. No one can give the same amount of perfect effort of providing customer satisfaction every single time. It’s not possible. It doesn’t matter if it’s a fake review, it’s there for the world to see.
Step 2. Realize that this will only increase exponentially.
This isn’t a fad, this is how people shop will continue to shop. Unfortunately, the later a business owner is to the game they miss more opportunities to gain business or prevent people being turned away.
Step 3. Appoint qualified people to manage online review management.
Online Reputation Management should be done by someone in your company that has tact, empathy, compassion, and a strong will. Don’t leave it to your webmaster, don’t give it to the IT department. This needs to be handled by your sales or marketing team.
Step 4. Know what your options are.
For a Yahoo review, you can respond to them by making a comment to the review. You have 2 objectives in this comment field. First you need to neutralize the review. You are not going to comment a negative review into a positive review. You are going to neutralize the review by being empathetic, understanding, apologizing that they had a bad experience. People want to be HEARD most of all. Read “How to Win Friends and Influence People” and you will gain tremendous insight into people. Second, you NEED TO GET THE CONVERSATION OFFLINE ASAP! I can’t overstate that enough. If I was able to blow up the font to 800 dpi and flash in gaudy colors I would. You do not want a back and forth recorded conversation. Read this to see how it can spiral out of control. It’s one thing to get a negative review, but it’s another when your interactions wind up on countless blogs and news aggregator sites. You are not there to defend your business by somehow communicating that the customer was wrong. It makes your business look like a jerk – if a business can be personified. Invite the person to call a specific number to resolve the issue such as the sales manager, customer rep, whoever. Chances are they won’t call, but everyone will see that you put forth the effort.
For Google Reviews, you can’t respond to them. There is not comment field. It’s just going to sit there, like a wart. Your only option is to get more positive reviews. Real Positive reviews. Find customers who love you. Really love you. Adamant fans of your service and ask them, if they wouldn’t mind, to write a review on Google. If you can’t find such a customer, you might want to think about how to cultivate a loving customer base.
Keep an eye on your company’s reputation online. It will carry weight into your overall sales strategy, customer retention and business practices.