As a business, what your customers think of you determines how new or potential customers think of you. The better the public impression, the more credibility your business has in the marketplace. However, even the most universally acclaimed brands get negative feedback. How those brands address negative feedback and complaints matters. It’s all part of online reputation management-the process of promoting a positive image online-and it can make or break your brand. Let’s take a look at why online reputation management should be a key part of your overall digital strategy.
First Impressions Matter
Most people have a first impression of someone or something within 27 seconds, but in a business setting, that number drops to just seven seconds. Whether consciously or subconsciously, we are constantly assessing and analyzing everyone and everything with which we interact, perpetually forming and reforming impressions. In the business world, your first impression might be all you have.
Part of that first impression is inherently tied to how past customers have reviewed their experiences. A litany of complaints or negative feedback can and will send potential customers running the other way. On the other hand, a slue of positivity will show folks your business is invested in the customer experience. That’s where online reputation management comes into play.
Essentially, customers should be able to tell right away that both your marketing strategy and business practices are customer-focused. It’s easy to see whether you’re more interested in making a buck or providing a better overall experience. To that end, positive content creation is an integral part of effective online reputation management. Look to take criticism and negative experiences and turn them into positives.
Reputation Management: Accountability & Action
Online reputation management is not a method for avoiding responsibility or bad business practices. Your business has to walk the walk. The key tenets of effective online reputation management are accountability and action. In other words, when a customer makes a complaint, the first step should be accountability. Rather than blindly accept fault, however, your business should take the time to listen.
Most importantly, always look to take the conversation offline. If a customer posts a complaint on your website or social media page, for example, reply to their complaint just one time with a sincere apology and a request to take the conversation private. You don’t want (or need) everyone to read an entire transcript of a complaint. Moreover, folks will see that you responded professionally and took the time to try to make it right.
Once you’ve taken accountability, the next step is action. How are you going to make it right? While there’s no black-and-white template for reparations, one key component of action is training. You’ve admitted the error and explained how you plan to fix it; now you have to explain how and why it’s not going to happen again. At the same time, if you do make that mistake again, your business has lost credibility, so don’t just say you’re going to invest in training-actually do it.
Again, online reputation management is not a way to avoid responsibility. That means you can’t delete, edit, manipulate, or hide negative reviews. The only way to truly minimize their effect is to visibility respond professionally and appropriately. If you do it correctly, you can turn complaints into satisfaction and loyalty. On that note, don’t be afraid to ask satisfied customers to leave reviews early and often. After all, part of online reputation management is increasing the visibility of positive information and feedback.
There are countless opportunities for folks to give digital feedback. From online review sites to forums to press articles, social media, blogs, and more, there’s no way to monitor every corner of the internet. There is, however, software, like Google Alerts, that will notify you when new content featuring your flagged queries is posted. For example, you can set it up to notify you when someone posts something featuring the words “[your brand]” and “scam” or “fraud”.
Just like you can’t make everyone in the world your customer, you can’t make everyone happy. With the proper online reputation management, however, you can show your customers you care about their experience and satisfaction. The long and short of managing feedback is to avoid being defensive, stay professional, and take accountability and action.