Reputation management - how to protect your business from the gossip gang
Anyone with access to the internet can find out all they need to know about your business in 3 seconds flat. A quick search will return at least 10 results with information about your business; hopefully at least one will be your own website, but the other nine will probably be a mixture of directory sites like yell.com, review sites like Tripadvisor or Yelp, and possibly local news references. If the user has searched for a local business you may also appear in the Google Local results near the top of the page.
As well as the review sites many of the other sites, and the Google Local results, have review functionality which allows users to leave feedback about your business. This feedback is almost always published (unless it contains very offensive material) and the websites have no interest in how good, bad or indeed accurate the feedback is.
Some of this online information is certainly outside your direct control. You can have your own excellent glossy website at #1 on Google saying how wonderful you are, and right below it at #2 in the search results could be a 2* rating on TripAdvisor from a disenchanted customer.
And sadly the old adage that “bad news travels fast” is just as true online; a disgruntled customer is far more likely to take the time to complain than a happy one is to write a good review. It’s just human nature. Add in Twitter and Facebook too, where comments can go global within hours, and you have what we could call “a situation”. Serve someone a salad with a dead beetle in it and it’s likely the entire world will know, and see the photo on Instagram, by the end of the day.
Four quick points to remember are:
Encourage positive reviews. One bad review among 3 looks poor, one bad review among 50 good ones becomes lost in the noise. If a customer seems content with their experience ask them specifically to leave a good review, make a point of telling them how it will help your business. Give them printed instructions if necessary, showing which website to go on and “what to click on” since less-tech-savvy users will be put off if they think it’s all too complicated.
Respond positively to negative reviews. Shout and swear privately at the injustice by all means, but then reply sweetly online with apologies and promises to do better. If you can respond directly (offline) to the customer to try to make amends then even better; most people react well to a business owner who at least tries to do the right thing. You may find the customer will even retract or at least update their bad review.
Keep an eye on the Google results so that you can quickly spot any new reviews left on websites, and reply to them.
Monitor social media for mentions of your business to both share positive messages and counter negative ones. There are many free tools available to help you do this, or you can just search Twitter and Facebook on a regular basis.
Most importantly - don’t ever get into an argument with a customer online. The outcome is almost always negative since long-running “flame wars” tend to go viral, and it rarely works out well for the business. The Internet may have opened a new age of online business, but the customer is still always right!