Has your business been hesitant to fully participate online? Many are because they fear bad reviews. While this is a valid concern, not being online won't protect you. People are talking about your brand whether you choose to see or participate or not. It is far better to know what is being said than to ignore it.
This is an important topic, so let's elaborate on what you can do to protect your reputation. First, we'll discuss how to handle negative reviews or mentions online.
Blue Hat Marketing local SEO service recently shared their suggested process in How to Deal with Negative Reviews:
- Don't become defensive
- Investigate internally
- Engage in open communication
- Find a solution
Check out their post for full details on what they advise and also how to deal with false reviews. Then continue below for how to proactively reduce the harm negative publicity can cause.
Don't Make This Mistake
The first step is not to act impulsively. If you're really upset, take a break. Walk away briefly and regain your composure because the worst thing you can do is answer in anger.
Next, decide whether or not to respond publicly. The main consideration is how many are likely to see the complaint. Do not make the mistake of responding publicly to someone with little influence online. This is especially true if you have a large audience and they have none.
Yes, you still want to reply right away. But do it privately. Keep copies of everything. The most important strategy when responding to an unhappy customer is to make sure they feel heard. Ignoring them is not the answer.
People who don't feel heard may decide to make complaining about your brand their life's passion. That isn't good for you - or them.
Be prepared to respond more publicly should the need arise. This can occur if a major media outlet covers the story or one or more social media influencers join in or launch a #boycott hashtag against your brand.
Plan a Course of Action
Even if the original review or complaint is unlikely to be seen by many, plan what to do should the issue go viral. Really listen to why this person is dissatisfied. Follow the steps BlueHat Marketing recommended. Make things right with this customer if at all possible. An upset customer you satisfy may become your most loyal fan.
Proactive Reputation Management
Companies with little to no online presence are at greatest risk of negative publicity. One incident could lead to the entire first page of Google being filled with negative publicity. Your best defense is a strong offense.
Start now to increase the number of citations for your brand name and your personal name as well. The easiest ways to do that are to open social media accounts and obtain local listings. Search for your name and brand name and see what comes up.
The more authority sites you have listings or bios on the more pages of positive citations will appear. By having many authority links, any negative publicity on minor sites is unlikely to make it to the first page of the search results.
Make it Easy for Customers to Complain
The best way to keep your customers from going online to write negative reviews about you is to make it easier for them to tell you directly. Add a suggestion box in your business. Make sure there are forms and pens available. (Test the pens to make sure they work.)
Put your contact information on your site and make sure someone is actively answering your customers quickly. (Since the advent of the internet people expect responses much sooner than they once did.) Even better, add live chat to your site so they can talk to someone in real time at least during some business hours. (Make when obvious so they don't get frustrated about that, too.)
Train your front-facing employees including their managers to listen to customer complaints. Repeat what the customer said back to them to confirm you understood it. Empower employees at every level to resolve common issues without having to wait for management approval. (If all your employers aren't capable of this, make sure they have multiple superiors they can contact.) Have policies already in place for how to handle complaints immediately.
If you listen and make things right customers won't be spending their time telling everyone they know how unhappy they are. The internet is actually an advantage. People have always told others when they were dissatisfied - you just didn't know it. Now you can "eavesdrop" online, discover issues and get them resolved.
Top Online Reputation Don'ts
This entertaining animated video contains common sense advice on how to interact online:
- Don't lie; be real and genuine
- Focus on why you are in business and what you can do for your customers
- Don't attack others ~ take the high road and be professional
- Sometimes it is best to let sleeping dogs lie
- Remember the golden rule; be nice and they'll reciprocate
- Don't ignore the buzz; set up brand alerts so you know when your brand is mentioned
- What you don't know could hurt you
How to Kill Your Brand SlideShare
Knowing what not to do can often be more valuable than knowing what to do. Here are some tips:
- Don't procrastinate - respond to problems quickly
- Consistency is a virtue - inconsistency annoys your customers
- Time management is one of our greatest challenges; do what is most important first!
- Don't get stuck in a rut doing what is "urgent", but does not contribute to customer satisfaction
- Create a strong brand and spread the word
- Focus on pain points your customers have so you can provide solutions
Remember that you are your brand. Everything you say and do contributes to or detracts from your reputation. Unlike times gone by, much of it will be preserved for what will seem like forever. Once something is online, it really will be forever most of the time. So prevention is key.
Be proactive and train your people well. Businesses that survived in the past in spite of having difficult employees (or even owners) dealing with the public are less likely to get away with bad customer service.
Make your customers your highest priority so when you do get that inevitable bad review, your happy customers are likely to answer in support of your business. (It is always better to have someone else say good things about you than to do it yourself.) Be sure to thank them for their business, too.
Have questions about how to deal with a bad review?
Feel free to ask them in the comments.