Managing your reputation online as a business is just as important as upholding your reputation in person. Think of it not as a self-indulgent act but instead an essential part of growing and maintaining your business and customer base.
In case you haven’t noticed, the Internet is no longer a one-way flow of communication. Brands are getting better at social media and their customers are paying attention and engaging in response. If you’re not nailing your presence online then chances are one of your competitors is, so don’t fall behind!
For every good experience your customers have, they may tell one or two people at best. If they have a bad experience on the other hand, chances are they’ve posted a Facebook status about it, screamed it from the hilltops and rented a billboard to spread the word as far as possible. Okay, that might be a slight exaggeration – but word travels fast, and no business despite how successful can afford to overlook the importance of maintaining their reputation.
If that doesn’t have you convinced, here are some handy facts:
・85% of your potential customers use the internet to research your company before they decide to make a purchase
・79% of your potential customers value personal and online recommendations in their search for a reputable company
・86% of people are willing to pay more for a service from companies which feature higher reviews and ratings
TripAdvisor and Facebook reviews
For many bricks and mortar businesses, TripAdvisor and Facebook are two of the main places where customers can give feedback. And we get it; you put your heart and soul into your business, so reading reviews might be a nerve-racking experience. Try to treat your reviews as constructive criticism. Build a relationship with your staff where you can talk openly about what is mentioned in the reviews (good and bad) and work as a team to make any needed improvements and changes. It’s good practice to also respond to reviews - this shouldn’t be treated as something that management tends to when they have time, it needs to be a priority. Think about your business's footprint online as the digital equivalent to your shop front. Would you leave rubbish lying around, your front window dirty or your sign falling apart? No. So don’t let this happen to your presence on feedback channels such as Facebook, Instagram or TripAdvisor.
Communicate to potential customers that you’re in control of your business by responding to negative comments publicly and QUICKLY. If someone is visiting your Facebook or TripAdvisor for the first time, seeing a negative review that hasn’t been responded to isn’t going to make a good impression.
Remember to remain calm and professional in your response; while it’s easy to take a bad review personally, you’ll thank yourself for it later! Don’t forget to thank your reviewers for their feedback. Good or bad, they’ve taken the time to express their opinion. Need help figuring out how best to respond? Here’s a handy guide to the key questions you should ask yourself.
Set a Google Alert
Setting up a Google Alert for your business means that you’ll receive an email every time it’s mentioned anywhere on the web. As a business that is savvy about reputation management, keeping your eye on the big hitting social media channels may not be enough. Food and lifestyle blogs are on an upwards trend and it’s not uncommon for bloggers to post reviews and photos of places they’ve been and products they've experienced. Having a Google Alert set up means that you’ll never miss out when someone is discussing your brand online!
Build integrity as a brand
Having integrity and being perceived as trustworthy isn’t something that can be bought, but it’s essential to creating and maintaining a good reputation. Integrity is often identified as doing the right thing even when it’s easier to do wrong, or keeping a promise when you could have gotten away with breaking it.
How does this relate to your business? Well say you advertise that you sell freshly squeezed orange juice. One day you open up shop and realise your juicer has stopped working. While it may be easier to make a quick trip down to the nearest supermarket and buy a dozen bottles of orange juice to get you through the day, you’re not really delivering on what you’ve promised to your customers. Showing integrity would be advising your customers that you haven’t got freshly squeezed juice available today, even if there’s the potential of leaving them dissatisfied. Ultimately, remind yourself that being upfront with them is going to bring a more positive outcome than being caught not telling the truth.
As a business owner, you and your staff will make mistakes and slip-ups will happen – but rethink your perspective on this. Instead of seeing tough or pressured times as a negative, see them as another opportunity to earn the trust of your customers.