How’s Your Online Reputation?

In today’s age of social media and online presence, there isn’t a business that can’t be impacted by a customer review. It can take as little as a couple of hours for a bad customer experience to go viral and impact the bottom line.

Online reviews provide a kind of social proof to potential customers, and in some instances weigh more importantly than a personal recommendation. In a recent survey by BrightLocal, 87% of consumers valued an online review as much as a word of mouth by a friend, and 93% of customers used reviews to decide if a business was trustworthy or not. In other words, not paying attention to your online reviews could cost you the opportunity to build customers' trust in your business.

It isn’t just customers who pay attention to reviews, search engines are watching closely, too.  A positive customer review is considered a sign of whether a business is good or not, and will contribute toward a higher search ranking. For small businesses it can be very difficult to compete with sites such as Yelp and TripAdvisor, who have a higher authority ranking with Google and automatically rank higher in search results. However, businesses with better online reviews will show up before those with poor reviews, even if the search ranking of the websites is equal.

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Take Charge

Controlling what customers write is impossible, but you can manage your online reputation by registering on major review sites and monitor them proactively. Keep track of the reviews customers leave and respond to them when appropriate and in a timely manner. Remember that a negative review is another chance to offer outstanding customer service. Most review sites allow you to respond directly to the customer’s review, thus giving you an opportunity to apologize and amend the situation. In a best-case scenario you may even win back a loyal customer. Of course, you won’t be able to please every unhappy customer, but the way you handled the situation will be taken into account by others when they are making their decisions.

Online Reputation Management

Managing your business’ online reputation can be time consuming and it may be best to assign one team member to manage it. It’s important that your brand voice is brought forth in a consistent manner and that your responses are personalized to the review. Always use the customer’s name. Be sure to research the issue before you respond and get as many details as possible. No matter how negative the review may be, always thank the customer for taking the time to bring their concerns to your attention. Finally, apologize to the customer for the poor experience and highlight the changes you have made or intend to make.

Encourage Positive Feedback

Customers are more likely to write a review after a bad experience which means you will have to encourage positive feedback. If a customer has a good experience, let them know how much you would appreciate their positive feedback. To make the process easier for the customer, include links to your review sites in follow-up emails, on your website or make it a part of the ‘check-out’ process at the point of sale. Make sure you respond to positive reviews as well as negative reviews. Let the customer know how much you appreciate their feedback and that they had a good experience. This will encourage others to leave positive reviews, which in return will improve your reputation and your search ranking.

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Keep in mind that while monitoring online reviews can be a challenging endeavor, the positive side is that we now have infinitely more feedback on our businesses than ever before, and that should be a good thing (trolls not withstanding).  Good luck with your online reputation and feel free to give us a call if you would like us to give you a hand.