Don’t underestimate the power of the Internet to change how people view your company. From online reviews to your social media presence, it doesn’t take much to turn a 5-star rating into an embarrassment. And, unlike a bad reputation in high school, kids in the corporate world are not as quick to forget.
A 2012 Nielsen survey showed that 70% of consumers they surveyed viewed online consumer reviews as a very strong and reputable source of sentiment about a brand–beaten only by the word of their friends and family. As a brand or a company marketer, you need to make sure that you have an actionable plan for online reputation management. Below are thirteen ways that you can soften a bad rep and win back the support of individuals who might otherwise be disinclined to engage with your brand.
- Admit the Problem
Perhaps you have a bad reputation because a troubled customer is out to get you after a bad experience. More often than not, though, there might be a problem that your brand needs to confess to. Whatever it is–from customer service problems, to technology issues, to bad communication–you need to come out and openly recognize your flaws. What do you have to lose? It doesn’t make you look weak. It makes you look smart, self-reflective, and balanced. Companies like Apple, Toyota, and Facebook have all experienced mishaps followed by solid public apologies that helped their brand images.
- Complete Company Profiles on Online Review Sites
Before you can start getting good reviews, you need to be somewhere that people can write them! Make sure that you have a business profile on all the major review sites – like the Better Business Bureau, Consumer Reports, and Insider Pages – as well as local ones. There may also be industry-specific, trusted review sites that you should consider for your particular niche.
- Monitor High-Frequency Review Sites
The most negative reviews tend to come from websites whose traffic is dedicated wholly to a specific review platform It’s wise to be proactive in finding those review sites (Angie’s List, Google Places, and Yelp!) and monitoring them regularly. If you do find negativity there, reach out to individuals and overcome their unique concerns whenever possible.
- Data-Mine Positivity
As often as you are monitoring review sites for negativity, make sure you’re mining positive spin as well. Social media sites like Facebook and Twitter are the best places to find people sharing good experiences with your company. Regularly search for these and get permission to share them on other social sites and mediums.
- Develop a Review Process
In the 2014 Yodle Small Business and Online Review Survey, 87% of business owners reported that they don’t have a process in place for getting positive online reviews associated with their online reputation. The reason? 43% percent just didn’t think to ask customers for these reviews. Be exceptional, and create a review process that will capture great feedback when your customers are most likely to have it: after they’ve bought something they love.
- Don’t Fake Reviews
The worst way to improve your reputation is by doing something shady, like pretending to be a customer. A small-scale survey from mobile-surveyor Qriously found that 28% of business owners admit to faking Yelp! reviews, and another 31% of owners “would rather not say.” Be one of the better 40% and get good reviews the old-fashioned way – from happy customers.
- Set Up Google Alerts for Your Business Name
Another way to head off bad press as it’s happening is to get Google Alerts for your business’s name. Any time an article or searchable social media posting is shared, you will get a ping to your Google account. This gives you the option to deal with negative press instantly, or to take positive mentions and share them with the world.
- Take a Stand on Ethical Issues
Today’s consumer expects more than just a product – they expect to choose a business that personally resonates with their value system. Instead of passively selling, be proactive in taking on causes that your demographic cares about. Although you might lose a few by taking a stand, the ones you gain will be more than customers, they will become brand fans.
- Give it Away, Now
Another way to build positive brand alliance is through connective online and in-person giving. Create a Facebook giveaway contest, host a live event whose proceeds go to a local charity, or start an internship program for students wanting to learn your business. Philanthropy makes you look good and gives back to your community, as well as provides positive personal experiences for consumers that will counteract online negativity.
- Incorporate Review Software
Online reviews have become so valuable that many businesses are taking the next step to invest in software that will quickly allow them to collect and review customer feedback. Some of the most popular are DemandForce, CustomerLobby, and PowerReviews. These programs can often be integrated with your customer relationship management (CRM) software to create an easy system for managing reviews.
- Handle Negativity Quickly
Dimensional Research recently found that that bad business experiences are remembered longer than good ones, with 39% of people actively avoiding or antagonizing businesses two years after a bad experience. The best way to counteract this is by quickly turning a negative interactive into a positive one. Find ways to give additional value – such as a refund and free service – even if a customer is on the way out.
- Teach Customers How to Leave a Positive Review
One of the main reasons customers don’t leave positive reviews is that it is not something they feel comfortable doing well. Overcome this obstacle by telling customers the best way to leave a review. You can even provide a template for them so that they help you build the exact kind of online reputation you want. Dave Eddy has a solid template that you can use to start with.
- Audit your customer service processes for weakness and ways to improve.
Finally, in order to truly make your bad online reputation a thing of the past, you need to look at negative reviews as a learning opportunity. What are the common themes? Are there certain people’s names who come up again and again? Use your negative reviews to restructure your sales pipeline and customer service attitudes if necessary. Your customers will thank you by touting the change in service and increasing your online credibility.