Protecting Your Company’s Online Reputation

Monitor what customers are saying about your business online

How often do you check Yelp or other review sites to find a restaurant, shop, salon, plumber, mechanic or even a doctor? These days, all kinds of businesses are critiqued, reviewed and discussed daily on countless review sites.

As hard as you work on your website and social media presence to make a great impression online, what your customers and prospects can see about your company is only partially in your control. The rest is up to the whim of anyone with an Internet connection — who can range from your best customers to miscreants whose only goal is to get a top ranking on Google, with your company’s reputation as collateral damage.

The implications are huge. According to a 2013 survey by Dimensional Research, 90% of U.S. consumers are influenced by positive reviews while 86% are influenced by negative reviews. The good news is that there are easy and affordable steps you can take to manage your company’s reputation online, which can ultimately serve to make your business better.

Stay proactive

  • Recognize that your online reputation is important and that managing it is an ongoing requirement. It’s not enough to have a great website or social media programs; you also need to be aware of what people are saying about your company on a continuing basis.
  • Commit to providing an excellent customer experience. This means not only providing a range of products or services, but providing outstanding customer service as well. How do you know if you’re doing a good job? Ask your customers to provide feedback at least once a year with a brief printed or online satisfaction survey.
  • Make it easy for customers to contact you directly. If they can get a resolution to their concerns directly from you, they may never get to the stage of posting a negative review. Provide a “Contact Us” form on your website and have a telephone number where customers can reach a live person for inquiries. And be responsive!

Monitor your online reputation

  • Keep tabs on what’s being said about your business online. You don’t have to spend the whole day searching the Internet for your company name to see what’s just been said. Automated services likeGoogle Alerts can help keep you updated. Assign an employee to track customer commentary about your company.
  • Encourage customers to post positive reviews or comments online. People like to support local businesses, and they love to share great experiences. Tap into this goodwill by asking customers to rate you on review sites, like you on Facebook, share a tweet, post a photo, etc.
  • Complement your customer commentary with an active social media program. Having a strong following online can create a “buffer” or reservoir of goodwill. The simple fact that you have an active fan base can offset one negative review. Your most ardent fans may even come to your defense to counter negative customer commentary.

Respond to comments

  • Develop a policy to respond to negative reviews or critical mentions. In many instances, the employee who monitors your online presence may be able to respond with prewritten responses or an approved set of offers to make amends with unhappy customers.
  • Respond quickly to negative comments and engage directly with customers. Keep the tone positive. Getting into an argument online can quickly escalate a minor issue into a PR disaster. Approach the interaction as a collaboration to make the customer happy within the limits of what works for your company.
  • Have a thick skin. You can’t please everybody, and one negative comment online is unlikely to ruin your business. Look at criticisms as an opportunity to learn how your company is perceived and to improve the experience customers have with your company.