In this article, we discuss the evolution of reputation management, and how a proactive process can benefit your bottom-line.
Before the internet age ushered in a new standard of transparency, business owners were able to survive and even thrive with sub-par products and services. As long as you had heavy foot traffic and a strong marketing push, the quality of your products didn’t really matter. Disappointed customers might complain to their immediate social circle, but they were basically yelling into a vacuum; the rest of the world didn’t hear about it, so disreputable companies stayed in business.
Today, business owners have nowhere to hide. The internet has made the whole world a “global village,” as academics writing about the effects of globalization will tell you. Online marketing companies have acknowledged this new reality, and begun to offer all manner of reputation-management services.
But are online marketing companies doing all they can?
Do reviews really matter?
In a word, yes. Somewhere between 70-90% of consumers seek out online reviews before they commit to buying a product or service. In fact, a significant amount of people trust online reviews as much as the word-of-mouth recommendations they get from friends and family. This may come as a surprise, but it does makes sense; we trust online reviews because they’re sourced from a group of diverse and objective people with varying standards and tastes. We may even put more stock in online reviews; it’s much more likely that an audiophile will have a more authoritative opinion about a pair of headphones than your Uncle Darryl.
One step beyond reputation management
Online marketing companies often use the term “reputation management” to describe their efforts to positively influence the way customers see your business. In the past, this practice mainly involved mitigating reputation damage by replying to bad reviews with accommodating, customer service-oriented messages, or drowning them out with a landslide of good ones.
Though this approach has value, it’s too reactive. Online marketing companies are too busy playing defense to actively improve reputations, and it’s hurting business owners’ bottom-line. We like to think of our online reputation services as “development,” not “management.”
Online reputation development
Reputation development combines the existing practice of managing bad reviews with a commitment to constant improvement. Rather than writing out insincere apologies and irritating angry customers even more, we suggest the following practices to improve your online reputation:
- Motivate your staff to encourage positive reviews. Everyone in your organization should be briefed on your reputation development plan. Encourage them all to ask customers to post their feedback online after a positive interaction. After a negative interaction, ask for feedback in person, and take it to heart – your business always has room to improve, and this is how you suss out problem areas.
- Identify and mitigate problems ASAP. In a perfect world, you can fix this problem before the customer leaves your store. In an online context, this means managing a bad review as quickly as possible, both with a direct, personalized reply, and making an effort to solve the problem.
- Give customers a place to complain. This may sound counterintuitive, but hosting reviews on your website offers a number of benefits. First, it keeps bad reviews off of highly-visible public forums and reviews sites. Secondly, it gives you immediate notice of any bad reviews, so that you can respond right away, rather than finding a slanderous comment on Yelp three months after it was posted.
- Engage your customers after their purchase. Contact customers after they’ve received their order or service. Ask them how everything went, and whether they have any suggestions for how things can improve. This will not only make the customer feel appreciated, but will give you the information you need to improve. Phone calls are great, but sending an email is fine – it may even be preferable for some.
If you would like to learn more about how we can build your company’s online reputation, call (416)-619-7935 for a free consultation!