Your company’s reputation is controlled in equal parts by how you interact with your customers and how they talk about that interaction. And with more and more customers turning to Internet reviews for advice, your customers are gaining power in that equation.
While that may make it seem like you don’t have much control – especially when it comes to your online reputation – a good reputation management plan can help you maintain a five-star online presence.
The first way to control your online reputation happens offline. The simplest way to prevent negative reviews is to prevent negative encounters. Minimize the potential for harmful reviews by always providing an excellent customer experience.
Even though every business strives to please every customer, there are always off days and one-off bad experiences. And every company is bound to face a negative review or two. But there is a way to respond that keeps you in a positive light.
Above all else - stay on top of negative reviews, and stay above them. Keep regular tabs on your reviews, and keep your online demeanor positive and helpful. Set a schedule for checking in on reviews and choose a staff member or team to manage that process.
If a customer has a negative review, you need to have a plan in place that helps determine your response. Determine when and how you will respond to reviews, set rules and standards for what kind of reviews you respond to and for the tone and content of your responses. Whenever possible, attempt to reach out to the reviewer privately to make amends and settle any disputes. If that’s not possible, be mindful of the messaging you are sending about your brand through your public response.
Whether that means responding to inaccurate reviews with a link to your website info page and an invitation to the reviewer to check it out, or offering them the chance to retry a product or service at a discount, know what you are prepared to offer and when.
You can only do so much to change a disgruntled reviewer’s mind. Don’t spend too much time on interacting with reviews. Your interaction or response on a negative review can bump that review up on the list and end up drawing more attention to it unnecessarily. If you don’t think you can change your reviewers mind, it’s recommended that you don’t interact, no one wants to be the next Amy’s Baking Company.
If you have a negative review that is factually inaccurate you are allowed to take steps with the review site to have it pulled, but it can be a difficult process and will require proof that the claim is untrue. If their review contains something they claim to be fact but is actually untrue, it can be considered defamation. In some extreme cases where the reviews affected the business, companies have found success fighting the reviewer in court.
While it could be tempting to flood your page with positive reviews do not turn to creating fake usernames and posting fake reviews. Your customers are savvy and will figure it out, and you will end up doing more harm than good.
What you should do is make it as easy as possible for customers to leave positive reviews. And be sure to thank them when they do!
Direct them to a review page on your own website, hosting reviews on your own site has many benefits. First, it drives traffic to your website instead of a review hub. It also provides you the opportunity to screen reviews as they come through allowing you to post positive reviews and privately correct any negative experiences. Let your customers fill your website or Facebook page with reviews – that not only generates content for you, it lets your fans and followers know that customers are having a positive experience with your company.
Be smart about your interactions with reviews and you are well on your way to a five-star reputation.
David S. Buddingh is founder and partner in Buddingh & Associates, Inc., an award-winning strategic marketing consulting firm in Naperville, IL. Contact him at (630) 961-4504 or visit www.BuddinghAssociates.com.