As a business, your reputation is your livelihood. If you start getting a slew of negative reviews online, chances are you’re going to struggle to get new customers or clients. And depending on how bad those reviews are, you may even start losing your existing customer base because of your online reputation.
You may think that online reviews aren’t that important. Ten years ago, you would’ve been correct. But now, shoppers research on Google, Yelp and other sites before visiting a business. While one or two negative reviews can be buried, your business may crumble if the negative reviews start outweighing the good.
Of course, the most obvious way to prevent negative online reviews is to treat your customers well. But we all know that one customer who would still have something bad to say about you even if you gave them their order for free.
We know that issue all too well at my company. But there are ways you can make sure your online reputation and reviews are positive.
Why Your Online Reputation Is So Important
Many consumers check online reviews before visiting a business. This may be because they’re looking for a specific product or service or they may be researching a specific business.
Regardless, your online reputation may be the first factor that determines whether a potential customer does business with you. And you can definitely trust that millennials—and Gen Zers—will research your business in some way or another before ever setting foot in your physical store.
Considering that millennials are now the largest generation in America's labor force, ignoring the demands of younger shoppers may not be something you want to do if you want your business to thrive. Having ample, positive online reviews of your business may help.
So, How Do You Manage Your Online Reputation?
Managing your online reputation will take some work, either by your team or by hired professionals. Whichever path you choose to take for your small business, there are four elements you can tackle:
1. Keep your listings and website updated.
I think taking the reins on how your site appears on Google and across the web is more important than nearly anything else.
That means updating your Google My Business account, your Yelp listing and any other sites (especially industry-specific sites) with the correct information for your business.
You may also want to consider blogging on a regular basis. Try to create quality content at least once a month. It could be about the latest industry news and how your business is approaching it, simple how-to blog posts or anything else that visitors to your site will want to know. This shows the search engines that you are active and are an authority in your industry, which can help your online rankings.
2. Send out press releases.
Press releases are a way to get featured by your local news media outlet.
They’re simple to create. You can find a lot of examples and templates for press releases—just make sure you’re including all the relevant information about the announcement and your business.
You can create a press release to announce any number of events, such as new hires, new products/services, new or different locations or involvement in the community.
3. Take advantage of social media.
Although it’s going to be more difficult to get onto Facebook users’ newsfeeds, your social media presence is still important. People may leave reviews for your company on your page that may reflect poorly on you and your company.
The good news is that Facebook gives you the opportunity to respond. Take advantage of that opportunity by responding to reviews, particularly negative ones, to show you care about your customers. The first step is to contact the customer directly. Then, within reason, do anything in your power to resolve their issue and request that they update their review accordingly.
Often, a review is written prior to the customer even given you an opportunity to remedy the issue. If you can fix the issue and provide quality customer service, you may be able to turn that one-star review into three or four stars.
4. Stay on top of your reviews.
I recommend constantly monitoring any site where online reviews of your business lives. You may begin to notice a pattern in the negative reviews, and that pattern can help you fix problems in your business you may never have noticed otherwise. If customers consistently complain about call wait times, you can evaluate your call center and either hire more people or implement an automated prompt service.
Sites like Google and Yelp permit and encourage you to respond to reviews. If you have positive reviews, take a moment to say thanks. If you get negative reviews, do your best to make things right. And if you’re struggling to get reviews, simply ask some of your best customers to leave some positive feedback—just be sure to never offer incentives for these reviews.
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