If you trade over the internet, your business’ online reputation is one of the most important assets you can have. Five-star reviews, great feedback and positive mentions on social media take away much of the doubt that potential new customers may have about using your services. A negative online reputation, however, can frighten off customers and put you out of business. In this post, we’ll look at what things can cause a bad online reputation and what you can do about it.
Looking at reviews is now the norm for online shoppers. Whether we’re buying something from Amazon or hiring the services of a builder, we want to know the experience of previous customers. Was the product good? What was the quality of the service? Was it value for money? How good was customer service? Customers use online reviews to get answers to their questions before making a decision.
If you have a string of bad reviews it is going to have a negative influence on those looking at your business. They’ll see the problems that other customers have had and will suspect that the same may happen to them. They’ll take their custom elsewhere.
One of the problems for today’s businesses is that it is all too easy for aggrieved customers to post a bad review about your business. If they feel you have let them down, they are at liberty to say so and it only takes a minute of their time to do it.
How to deal with bad reviews?
The first task is to find them. One of the best ways is to Google your own company. In the results, you should find links to your online reviews, often with the stars published in the actual search results, like below.
If this doesn’t throw up any results, check out individual review sites, such as Yelp or TrustPilot.
There are a number of ways you can respond to bad reviews. Your initial reaction may be to try to get it removed. However, if the review is genuine, it’s unlikely that the review site will take it down. The key to restoring your reputation requires a more diplomatic approach: you will need to try to resolve the issue that the customer complained about. Doing this can lead them to change their review or, at the least, your response will let those who read it see that you are making an effort to put things right.
To make sure this goes smoothly, you need to respond quickly and in a way that shows your concern for the customer. So, instead of putting the blame back on them or getting into a public slanging match, make a public apology and ask them to get in touch so that you can resolve the issue. For example, ‘We’re very sorry that you were not satisfied with our service. Please accept our sincere apologies and get in touch so that we can put things right for you as quickly as possible.’ Once you have done this, you need to keep to your word.
The other thing you need to do is learn from your mistakes. If the bad review is a consequence of something not going right with your company, you need to make sure it doesn’t happen again. This way, you’ll reduce the number of bad reviews you get in the future.
Do remember that you are very unlikely to get good reviews all the time. In fact, some customers don’t trust companies that only have five-star reviews. They know that no business is perfect. What you do need to worry about is if most of your reviews are poor.
Coping with corporate hate websites
Although it’s rare, sometimes, someone can be so unhappy with your business that they’ll go to the length of creating a website or writing web articles with the aim of stopping people from using your business. If that site ranks in search engines when people search for your company, it’s highly likely that potential customers will visit it and read what that person has to say. This could have a very bad effect on your business.
What do you do about sites like these? If the site doesn’t rank in search results, there’s probably little you need to do as hardly anyone will read it. However, if that isn’t the case, you may need to take action.
The first step would be to try and resolve the issue with the angry person. Unlike the reviews which are written by customers, hate websites can also be created by people with other issues, such as former employees or those who have political or moral objections. If the matter cannot be resolved, you may need to take more drastic action.
Whilst you can take legal action, this itself may lead to publicity that you don’t want. A much better alternative would be to launch a charm offensive with the aim of getting other websites, such as blogs and news sites, to write more positive things about your company in the hope that these articles start to rank above the negative one.
Dealing with negative social media
Such is the nature of social media that a negative comment can go one of two ways: the most likely outcome is that it will disappear along with the millions of other tweets and status updates that never get read, however, it can also go viral. If it does, your reputation and your business may be at risk. With social media communication taking place in real time, it’s vital that you take quick action.
One of the difficulties with dealing with social media criticism is that by the time you hear about it, it could already have got out of hand. Those who criticise you are not necessarily going to tag you in their post. For this reason, you should use a service like Mention or Social Mention which can notify you when your business has been mentioned on different social media platforms.
If you have been mentioned in a negative way, you need to act as soon as possible. Some companies deal with this by having their customer service team use Facebook and Twitter to take care of social media customer complaints. In fact, many people now use these platforms to contact customer services as they know, in most cases, that they will be dealt with quickly.
When you get a social media complaint, react in the same way as you should to a bad review. Acknowledge the complaint and apologise publicly before carrying out the rest of the conversation via private messaging. With social media, you can perhaps be a little less formal: ‘Hi Dan, sorry this has happened, please send more details by PM so we can resolve your problem.’
Poor customer reviews, hate websites and negative social comments can inflict substantial damage on your business. Monitoring the internet to find these and responding quickly and appropriately is the key to resolving customer problems. This shows other customers that when things inevitably go wrong from time to time (it happens to all businesses), you put the customer first and get the issue resolved.
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