Once upon a time, a business’s identity consisted of three things: the geographic area they served, what they said about themselves in their advertising, and the experiences their customers shared via word of mouth. Those three facets combined became the business’s at-large reputation.
But in the Internet age, things have changed just a bit. These days, a business’s identity is automatically linked to its online reputation—basically a digital version of its identity.
How Your Online Reputation Works
Online reputations are borne from two components:
- Business Information – Your address, phone number, hours of operation, products and services…business information is exactly that: information you want potential customers to know about your business. It’s vital that your business information is accurate and complete, both so customers know how to find you and to ensure you’ll come up in relevant search engine results.
- Consumer Reviews – Company reputations are heavily impacted by real-time, online consumer feedback through review sites, social media, forums and other channels. That feedback, and more specifically the trends that rise to the surface, has a much bigger impact on a business’s online reputation than anything the company does.
Reviews Start the Conversation
#2 is especially important. Customers now expect social recommendations and reviews to be a mirror of the actual customer experience they would have in real life. And while consumer reviews are the meat and potatoes of a company’s online rep, what the company does with them is just as important.
Every review posted about your business is a two-fold opportunity: it boosts your presence by showing viewers you’re engaged, and it lets you interact one-on-one with a customer or potential customer.
But What to Say?
Here are some useful strategies for responding to customer reviews, both good and not-so-good:
- Communicate: This may seem obvious, but the very first step is actually saying something! And ‘something’ doesn’t mean a smiley face or thumbs up emoji—even one sentence acknowledging the review will go a long way.
- Start with a thank-you: Speaking of, whether it’s good or bad start by thanking the person for their feedback. Excluding a small number of trolls, the vast majority of people who leave a review are doing so because, one way or the other, an experience they had with your business left an impression. So whether it’s massively complimentary or harshly critical, the first step is to thank the reviewer for their feedback.
- Make a recommendation (positive review): If a customer liked dealing with your business once, give them a new reason to like it again! Look for reference points in their feedback to recommend something else that’s relevant to their experience. Multiple positive experiences=loyal customers, and loyal customers=repeat business!
- Directly acknowledge the complaint (negative review): Sometimes people don’t have the ideal customer experience, and when that happens they’re usually more than willing to share it with the internet at large. Regardless of the specifics, when someone posts a negative review about your business it’s vital you offer a sincere apology—that’s the first step to making them feel like you genuinely care about their experience, as well as winning them back as a customer. Continue by saying that you want to hear more about what happened, then provide them a means to communicate directly with you—a phone number, an email address, or even via private message through whatever online platform they made the review on. Will it work every time? Of course not. But at least other people will see your willingness to try turning a bad customer experience into a good one.
Your Online Reputation is Your (Digital) Livelihood!
Accurate business info and consistent customer interactions are the cornerstones of developing a healthy online reputation. But it’s no small task! Both components require significant investments of time and upkeep. That, combined with the fact that they’re often part of a larger digital marketing strategy that works to help your business stay competitive and relevant online, it definitely makes sense to find a trusted partner who can do the legwork for you.