In this digital age, it is imperative for small businesses to maintain a good online reputation in order to flourish, as the correlation between online rankings and user influx on the web site/page is often directly proportional. Reputation management today must be proactive, not passive.
Search engines are programmed with specialized algorithms to employ a number of factors prior to deciding the rank of any website on its search listings, and one of these is customer reviews.
Although positive reviews are vital for the furtherance of any business, it could be necessary to face a few discontented customers who could consequently leave you with negative reviews. Because user experience can actually affect search rankings, in such scenarios a competent reputation management approach comes into play.
What is Reputation Management?
Reputation management defines the system which controls an organization’s reputation on a digital platform, primarily during occurrences of negative reviews. It is a growing sector of digital marketing that should be pursued diligently, especially by small businesses aspiring to grow.
The Importance of Reputation Management
Inappropriate management of an establishment’s website review section can often have hidden ramifications. Local business owners marketing their businesses online need to master various aspects of business management, including exemplary communication skills, in order to prosper. Since not all entrepreneurs possess the art of eloquence, a preemptive investment in reputation repair strategy can help you placate an unsatisfied customer, saving a substantial cost in terms of lost revenues while maintaining your business’ online credibility.
Here are a few tips to help you get proactive and sustain your business’s reliability should you become the unlucky recipient of negative reviews:
1. Don’t Ignore or Delete the Review
When faced with a negative review, one of the cardinal sins is to simply ignore it or worse, to delete it altogether.
Failing to acknowledge a negative review will not make it disappear. In fact, your lack of response can drive the customer to seek an alternative audience more willing to lend an ear, or the review can be picked up by other online reviewing platforms. It is more difficult to implement damage control in such cases.
Likewise, deleting a review can further infuriate the reviewer, resulting in a scathing review on another forum and alienating a larger customer base. Therefore, always respond – which brings us to our next point.
2. Prompt Response
You win points in your customer’s eyes if you respond quickly to a negative review. As mentioned above, in the event of a delay from your end, an unhappy customer can get agitated and subsequently post additional unsavory reviews on more forums. Ideally, you should reply within a day with a simple “we are deeply sorry for the inconvenience; we will get back to you immediately with a plausible solution,” reverting back to them with the solution, thus turning the events around in your favor.
3. Pay Heed to the Customer’s Complaint
The first course of action is to seriously consider your client’s complaint and determine if there are any shortcomings in your service or product. Be compromising and courteous even if you find the review to be biased. Evaluate the problem and figure out if you are having recurrent negative reviews about that particular product/service. Simultaneously, reassure your client that you will fix their issues, and try to reciprocate with a solution as soon as possible. By employing a tactful approach, you might win yourself a potential customer and also maintain your online reputation.
When responding to a negative review, begin by issuing a formal apology before you address the issue at hand, as nothing diffuses an unsettling situation faster than an apology. Therefore, own up to your mistakes, express regret at the client’s unsatisfactory experience with you, and issue a genuine apology before the problem escalates out of your hands. Don’t save the apology as the last resort, as by that time the client will already be alienated and your apology will probably come across as a face-saving tactic, doing more harm than good.
5. Avoid Arguing
For any establishment, the golden rule of thumb to remember is the customer is always right. Even if you are technically correct and the review is baseless, avoid arguing at all costs, as you will come across as mean and unprofessional. Altercations on an online forum can quickly turn nasty, especially if you are at fault, with more customers pitching in with their opinions, turning the situation into a mob scene with you at its center! Plus, arguing with a client can cause you to lose potential – as well as some loyal customers.
6. Offer Compensation
Once you have gained the customer’s confidence with a sincere apology, offer compensation or invite them to visit you again with the commitment of a better experience the second time around. This will convince the client of your sincerity and give you another opportunity to win a prospective customer. Go the extra mile, and most importantly, make sure to deliver on your promises.
Reputation Management is a Top Tool for Brand Protection
There is no denying the fact that online reviews can make or break a new business. This is why an astute review acquisition strategy, along with a smart reputation management approach, can assist a small business to grow exponentially.
In the online space, a reputation needs protection. Do you believe a good reputation simply takes care of itself? Share your thoughts in the comments!