Reputation Management for Small Businesses

Your online reputation can be your business’s most important asset. What people say about you online can impact decisions on how potential customers interact with your business.  While online Reputation Management can have a variety of names and definitions, when considering the digital marketing landscape, it can most simply be thought of as how you interact with customers and potential customers, and how you are perceived by them.

Why Should You Worry About Reviews?

Bad reviews can have an impact on your business’s health and growth. When a disgruntled customer leaves a bad review about your products, services, customer service or anything else it’s important to realize that this is almost unavoidable. However, with reputation management strategies, you can turn any situation to your advantage.

When looking through reviews we all understand that there will be some isolated instances that are unavoidable, so most consumers won’t hold this against you. They will, however, look for any responses from the company and how you handle it.

This not only allows the company to defend itself (when necessary), but a simple “I’m sorry this happened, email me at ‘___’ so I can make it right” shows that you do care about the customers (even previous customers) and are aware of the problem. Thank them for the feedback, apologize and leave it at that. If customers perceive that you are trying to make excuses for poor service or quality, it can further alienate them.

This communication can have many effects, which is why it is so important to respond to every review, good or bad. Sometimes the company has it in their power to make things right with store credit or even just an open dialogue or even apology can change the attitude of the potential customer. When people leave these bad reviews they simply want to be heard, so listen, and sometimes you can convince them to take the negative review down, or even better, upgrade the review to a positive message.

SEO Benefits of Reviews

These reviews are a gold mine for high listings on search engines, which is why you should never leave this power in the hands of the customers. Disgruntled customers are much more likely to leave a bad review, than a pleased customer is to leave a good review. Therefore, don’t leave this decision for them to make, instead send an automatic email to every customer to leave a review (good or bad), which will be driven toward the good reviews since the bad reviews will be written regardless.

Once a customer transacts, we recommend sending them a feedback request to see how likely they are to return. If the answer is positive, ask them for a review. If it’s negative, at least you will be able to discuss what you can do better before they air it on the internet.

Finally, use these reviews to improve your content on your webpage. Look at the reviews left for your competitors and see what words their customers are using repeatedly. If they are generally talking about customer service, make sure you mention your top-notch customer service on your front page. Consumers’ buying decisions are highly based on reviews, so it can be helpful to have an insight on what these consumers are seeking out and afraid of when making a purchase.

When potential customers search your name, let them see an accurate reflection of your business, your values, and your priorities. Control what you can control and make sure your online presence is a positive one!

How to Respond to those Negative Online Reviews

84% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations!

It’s no secret that online reviews are extremely important for your small business. According to a recent Zendesk report, “90% of participants said positive online reviews influenced their buying decision and 86% said their decision was influenced by negative reviews

Understandably, many of us small local business owners are leery about allowing customers leave reviews on their site or social media because it always seems like unhappy customers are much more likely to want to tell the world, while happy customers simply don’t think about it.

While statistics confirm this to be true, at the end of the day there’s no way to prevent customers from talking about your business. There are simply too many channels with which they are able to do so, and honestly it’s a good thing for them AND for you.

You want people to see you appreciate and respect their perspectives, good and bad, even if it is sometimes subjective. This fear is often misguided because any review, good and bad, can be used to establish credibility and trust with future and existing customers.

Use customer reviews as an opportunity to give your customer community a voice. For good or for bad let them know you respect their opinion and are willing to listen. As small business owners we are always looking to improve anyway, so they deserve our time. For positive reviews, you want to be quick to acknowledge and thank them publicly.

For negative reviews, believe it or not, you still want to be quick to acknowledge them and respond publicly because your goal here is to persuade the customer to contact you and work out a resolution. As consumers are reading more reviews, they are also reading the replies to reviews.

If you sound angry in your reply, it will do more harm than good, and that reviewer will not contact you to resolve the issue. You can respond to those reviews in a positive way that actually helps your customers, your business, AND your online reputation.


Tips for Crafting Negative Review Responses

Always Respond, and Do So Promptly

Turning a blind eye to a negative review is basically telling both the reviewer and audience that their opinion and experience aren’t important to you. Consumers want to feel valued and engaged; if you can do that, you’ll be creating higher brand loyalty and repeat customers for your business.

This is just as important for good reviews as well. Ideally, you respond to every review within 24 hours or less. Quick response times show your customers you care.

Choose who will respond

It’s very important to make sure you have the right person responding to the review. This should be someone who’s knowledgeable about your business culture and will respond in a way that aligns with your brand narrative.

Also, make sure you have a game plan for responding to negative reviews. That way, both you and the responder can feel confident in the response. Plus, there’s less of a chance to exacerbate a bad experience with a badly thought through response.

Respond Like a Person, Not a Corporation

When you’re engaging with someone who has a complaint about your business, make sure you sound like a person instead of a corporation. A customer with a complaint wants to know that someone who can help has heard them. Be personable in your replies, and be careful of “cookie-cutter” responses.

Listen and Let Them Talk

One crucial element of building a new business – or growing your current one – is developing relationships with your consumers. You want to make the customers, especially the one conveying they’ve had a bad experience, feel that their opinion matters and that they are being heard.

If your customers are upset and want to complain, listen to their venting. Then you can formulate an effective solution that works for both you and them. And remember: you’re not the most important person in the conversation.

Admit To Your Mistakes and Correct The Problem

Everyone makes mistakes, even you and your business. If you have made a mistake, make sure you do what’s necessary to correct the problem. This may mean a partial or full refund, a replacement of product, or fixing a service that was not done correctly. If you’re having issues with a particular aspect of your business, let the customer know you’re working on the problem.

Get Them Offline

If it’s appropriate in the situation and for your business, offer to meet with them in person. This allows the conversation to happen in an off-line setting that’s not public for all of your other customers to see. Sometimes the customer may not feel comfortable meeting, offer a phone call in this situation.

If this is possible and the reviewer agrees to meet or talk to you, post a quick comment online that you’re looking forward to meeting or talking with them. This lets the rest of your audience know that you’re:

  1. Addressing the issue
  2. Going the extra mile by offering to meet in person or call directly for resolution.


Ask Happy Customers to Share their Experiences

However, it doesn’t always make a difference what you do or what decisions you make, people will be unhappy. In those cases, the best thing you can do is make sure that the vast majority of your reviews are positive content from your happy customers. The best way to get good reviews is to ask happy customers for them. Google my Business has a link you can send out to get reviews, and Facebook does as well.

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