As interactivity on the web increases dramatically so does the occasionally worrying subject of people placing negative comments about your business. Online reputation management is increasingly important, especially with regards to local SEO listings. Search engines such as Google look at comments made on websites as part of their local search ranking algorithm, bad comments having a very real chance of detrimentally affecting your localised business’ ranking.
Online reputation management has often been seen as a tricky subject concerning actions often out of a business’ control. Online comments are typically a product of someone who’s got strong emotions about the product or service they are interested in. People who lay down such messages can easily be misinterpreted as impossible to talk to. As much as negative reviews feel awful, positive reviews can be extremely rewarding and are great for business.
Emotions often run riot upon the sighting of a negative review – is it a competitor, perhaps these are the ramblings from a disenchanted ex-employee, what could I possibly have done to receive such criticism? Similarly, thoughts turn to whether these comments can be seen at all by your target audience, let alone anyone else casually surfing the web.
At this point you should relax, think about things rationally. Admit that we’re all human, and that someone somewhere made a mistake. Although businesses do indeed project a faultless image, mistakes happen, and are as much a part of business whether we like it or not. Secondly, you should realise commenting is only going to increase in use, this is no quick fad. The sooner business’ learn about and adopt the latest interactive nuances the greater the reward on their table so-to-speak. Don’t be a latecomer to this game and turn people away.
Online reputation management is not a simple job that should be given to anyone in your company. Tact, empathy and compassion in combination with a strong desire to deliver are important. Sales and marketing departments are often the best place to employ someone for this type of work.
Next, understand your available options. Where you are able to make comments on the review, such as with Yahoo reviews, there are two objectives for this comment field. First, neutralise the negative review. There is no way you will be able to directly turn their review into a positive one. What you can do is neutralise it though being empathic and understanding, apologizing for their bad experience. A great wealth of information on how people work can be found in the book “How to Win Friends and Influence People”. Secondly, aim to get your conversation with the negative reviewer offline as soon as possible! This is vital since bad comments can spread like wildfire all over the internet, on all manner of blogs, chat rooms and news sites, potentially making your company look very unpleasant and unprofessional. Invite the reviewer to call a specific number to resolve their issues with suitable company representatives e.g. the customer representative, sales manager, or whoever. Usually the reviewer won’t call, but everyone will see that you made the effort and care.
Instances in which you are unable to respond to a negative review, as with Google Reviews where there is no comment field, need a different approach. You only have one option here – real positive reviews. Do some research and find customers who love your business, then politely ask them if they’d be interested in writing a review on the particular website e.g. Google. If such customers are hard to track down, or perhaps don’t exist, you should think about how to nurture an expanding group of enthusiasts over time.
Monitor your company’s online reputation closely. A great reputation carries great weight through to your sales strategy, retention rates of your customers and business best practices.