In today’s competitive landscape, you can’t leave your online reputation to chance. The Internet puts a wealth of information at consumers’ fingertips, making it easy for them to do the research necessary to make confident purchasing decisions.
With just a few taps on their smartphone, a motivated buyer can find out enough about a company to quickly form an opinion on them. This then directly impacts their buying and spending decisions. And, depending on a company’s online reputation, this can be a gift or a curse.
Why is online reputation management so important?
Having a stellar reputation buys you more credibility. When every mention of your company visible online to potential customers is positive, and past customers write about their dealing with your business in glowing terms, it helps dispel any remaining doubts about purchasing from you. So by the time they reach you, they’re ready to buy.
However, if consumers find a slew of negative reviews and/or rants on forums when they research your company, it’s next to impossible to regain the trust required for them to do business with you. You’ll be dismissed as an option before you even got a chance to communicate with them directly.
With this in mind, your online reputation isn’t something that can be left to develop unchecked and unmanaged. Rather, it should be carefully and purposely cultivated. Effective online reputation management shouldn’t be ad hoc and reactive – it needs to be consistent, frequent, and proactive.
4 strategies to improve your online reputation management
- Deliver on what you promise
First and foremost, deliver the product or service that you promised and that the customer expects. Simply striving to do what you promised to and living up to your company’s own standards is one of the most fundamental principles of online reputation management. This stems from the fact that it’s easier to maintain your online reputation than repair it.
However, if you come to discover instances where a customer didn’t feel they received what they expected from your business, fix it as soon as you can. If they publicly express displeasure at the service they receive from your company, they may well also share how happy they are with your efforts to rectify the problem. This only applies, of course, if the necessary steps are taken to address their grievances.
- Develop a process for constantly monitoring and responding to mentions of your company
Routinely monitor mentions of your company online and respond to them appropriately. This needs to be frequent. Ideally, absorb it into your overall customer service and public relations strategy. Also, to be most effective, this process needs to cover all mediums, including review sites, forums and social media platforms.
Online feedback from customers invariably contain nuggets of wisdom that you can act upon – if you’re on the lookout for them. By frequently monitoring online channels for mentions of your company, and responding, you’ll gain invaluable insights into what to improve as an organisation,
For example, is a specific area, such as deliveries or repairs, generating the most criticism? Or, if you have multiple sites, do most complaints come from a particular location?
Not only does this strategy deal with those particular unhappy customers that left a review or comment but it allows you to identify potential patterns that you otherwise wouldn’t. Subsequently, you can improve in the areas where your customer service is lacking and proactively manage your online reputation.
- Directly address negative reviews publicly
Research has shown that just under 90% of consumers are more likely to use a business that responds to all their reviews. So, there’s a lot of value in addressing, rather than ignoring, negative reviews or comments made about your company.
Directly dealing with a negative review has the potential to change your company’s perception for the customer in question, but also any prospective buyers.
To do this, consider the following:
On review sites, forums, and social media publicly express regret about their negative experience inform them that someone will be contacting them directly to rectify the situation. Then, find their details and go the extra mile to make sure they’re satisfied. As alluded to earlier, this could compel them to write a subsequent positive review.
If you receive negative press – or an especially damaging review – write a brief post detailing your side of the story and publish it on your blog. Post a link to it as a reply on the page where the negative story originated. Plus, from an SEO perspective, the fact it’s a story about your company on your website, and was posted more recently, could make it appear higher in search engine results than the original, negative post.
Sometimes, asking the site on which the negative review is posted to remove it is enough. If you clearly state your case, and the review stands out as being uncharacteristic of your company, or just downright malicious, there’s a good chance they’ll take it down.
However, although negative reviews are the more pressing concern, make time to respond to positive reviews too. Even if it’s something brief, along the lines of “Glad we could help” or “Thanks for your kind words”, it reinforces the positive experience that the customer had purchasing from you, engenders loyalty, and enhances your online reputation. Better still, it encourages other customers to leave positive reviews.
- Ask directly for reviews
Don’t let reviews be incidental – get into the habit of asking for them. Whether in-person, over the phone, or via email or text asking a customer to leave a quick review is a good way of increasing your online presence.
Most customers understand what reviews mean to businesses, so they’d be happy to help. This is particularly the case if you give them a small nudge by asking them personally. Also, because many customers will inevitably forget, the best strategy is to schedule a reminder email that will land a few days after their purchase.
Similarly, where possible, ask customers for testimonials that you can add to your own site. Better yet, if you did significant work for a customer or client, put together a case study. This has the dual purpose of enhancing your online reputation and, because you’re appealing to search engines’ preference for fresh content, boosting your site’s SEO.