Did you know 52% of people are more likely to use a local business with positive reviews? Meanwhile, only 28% make a choice based on location and convenience. In a study by public relations firm Weber Shandwick, it concluded that what people say and online reviews are the most influential factor when forming consumer perceptions about companies.
What this means for you as a small business owner: what people say online about you, your brand, and your business matters, and it could affect the future of your business if you don’t take action.
Where Are People Talking about You?
Customers often talk about businesses on social media and online directories. Think of it as the new version of word-of-mouth marketing. Instead of telling neighbors in person what plumbing company you used for your latest draining cleaning, you are probably more likely to post about your experience on your Facebook Timeline (social media) or write a review on Angie’s List (directory).
How Reputation Management Affects Your Bottom Line
Reputation management is the term used by online marketers and public relations professionals that refers to monitoring what people are saying about a brand. This isn’t just a small concept or a once-a-month thing—there are people out there who make a career in brand reputation management because online reputation makes a difference in bottom lines. This segment of an infographic by Entrepreneur sums it up pretty well.
“Today’s consumers conduct extensive research on companies and products before making a purchase or decision. It is imperative that your reputation be in good standing.”
A great example of a company who has seen decreased revenue due to poor reputation management is British Petroleum. What is the first thing you think of when someone mentions BP? For me, it is the 2010 oil spill. And apparently I’m not the only one.
As of this summer, BP has had to pay more than $28 billion to compensate people, businesses, and communities who were affected by the crisis, as well as fight the uphill battle of repairing the public’s perception. The company is known for turning off comment functions across social media to avoid liability issues, however, some people view this as an inappropriate way to control messages.
This is a grand example to show how poor reputation management affects business, but there are still lessons that are applicable for small businesses.
Stay in Control
The scary part about the online world for most people is the lack of control. You can’t control what people say about your business, but you can be proactive in shaping other customers’ perception by taking control of the proper channels:
- You should create social media profiles for your business that have up-to-date information about your business hours and general services. As an administrator, you can monitor activity and respond when people have questions or comments.
- Online directories are growing in popularity. To make sure your potential customers can find you, create listings for your business on popular sites (Yelp, Google, etc.), as well as industry- or location-specific directories.
Quick Tips for Managing Your Online Reputation
Wouldn’t it be great if you could avoid angry customers leaving bad reviews altogether? You can try! This article has some good tips for calming customers before they leave a negative review. However, when you encounter these reviews, use these pointers for managing your online reputation.
Tackle it at the source. This means that you should respond or take action on the same platform as it was posted. Most sites and directories offer options for responding directly to comments or reviews, as long as you have your listing or profile claimed.
Respond quickly. An unhappy customer needs to be addressed in a timely manner. Radio silence doesn’t go over very well on the Web. In fact, someone may interpret that as you not caring, which is not the message you want to send. Reputation management is about showing that you do care.
Control your anger. Chances are that people won’t be posting 100% positive reviews 100% of the time. There could be a chance that a past customer has some of his facts wrong or just had a very unusual experience that doesn’t accurately reflect how you operate your company or how you train your employees to offer customer service. Try to remain calm in your response and acknowledge how the customer feels, and then offer a solution. You may want to consider taking the conversation offline to work out the details, so you don’t have to set a precedent for refunds, additional services, etc.
Check in often, if not daily. To make sure you don’t miss anything, you should check your profiles and directory listings often or, even better, on a daily basis. Regular check-ins will help you stay in control and take action early.