The internet has changed the business landscape and online reputation management is now something every single business needs to pay attention to. Not only has the landscape changed the way we conduct business, but it’s also changed how customers relate to us and how they preview a business’ online reputation. In many ways the internet has made life easier for the customer while making things more difficult for the businesses that serve them. So let’s talk about online reputation management.This is largely due to how damaging online negative opinions can be. Businesses have always depended on customer recommendations, but in the past, the reach and speed of word-of-mouth limited the damage radius of a single negative customer experience. Today, a single online review can ruin a business under the right circumstances.

In order to survive the nastiness of wronged customers (whether those wrongs are real or imagined), every business needs to be aware of, and actively trying to protect, their online reputation. From solopreneurs to major corporations, no business or venture can afford to neglect online reputation management.

Here at Podium, we know that, for those who aren’t online reputation management experts, it’s easier said than done. It’s an entire discipline unto itself, and one that many professional individuals and small businesses may not think they have the time or budget to deal with properly. The good news is, there are some basic tactics that can be implemented easily without adding dramatically to your workload, even if you’re new to online reputation management.

This guide will show you the basics, teach you how to learn from negative feedback, and how to give your company online reputation management and a positive online image.

1. Developing Your Online Reputation Management Strategy

3.3 stars, on average, is the minimum star rating of business consumers would consider engaging with.

Coffee shop image of customers and barista.

The first step in your online reputation management strategy should be an evaluation of your online image. Tracking your reputation is an important part of reputation management, and ideally, it’s a practice that you’ll continue once your primary reputation remediation efforts are finished. That’s because staying on the right track requires constant vigilance A little bit of neglect can turn into a serious problem very quickly.

You’ll start with some basic searches, primarily using your brand name as the keywords. Plug it into a search engine, and see what comes up. As you look through the search engine results pages (SERPS), you’re looking to answer a couple of questions:

What are the most pressing issues? Are there one or two items that stand above the rest?

  • How extensive is the damage? Is it a few links on the page, or does it cover the top 20 or 30?
  • Is there defamation coming from customer reviews or published content (articles, news posts, etc.)?
  • Is it accurate? Can the claims be refuted?
  • Is anything positive cutting through the noise?
  • What kind of online presence does our company have?
  • What kind of social media presence does the company have?
  • Where are the brand’s customers? Pinterest, Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Google+, other?

Once these questions have been answered, you’re ready to start putting together a strategy for answering the concerns. You start with “What” and then move onto “Why.”

  • Is there anything obvious about the company’s presence that can be corrected or improved quickly?
  • Is the company out of touch with customer experiences?
  • How can the company better collect customer feedback?
  • Can the company directly address the most egregious cases of defamation?
  • What can the company use to bury negative search results?

Ultimately, an effective online reputation management campaign will address each of these and will include SEO tactics, content marketing, Voice of the Customer (or similar feedback strategies), and a willingness to make changes if they are truly needed. We’ll step through each of these below.

2. Improving Your Online Reputation with Customer Relationships

77% of consumers said they would be willing to leave a review if asked by a business.

Man leaving an online review on cellphone.

More Is Better

The most common reason for needing online reputation management is disgruntled customers–and with good reason. 3.3 stars, on average, is the minimum star rating of business consumers would consider engaging with. Whether it’s a single negative review outweighing a handful of positive ones or a slew of critics amongst thousands of reviews, the first step is the same: start asking more of your customers for feedback.

If the critiques aren’t an accurate reflection of your services or products, then the additional feedback will help drown out the negativity. Otherwise, collecting more reviews will help identify where the problem area is, and help you know how to address it. Either way, more reviews will be better.

As you seek to collect feedback, you want to do what you can to guide the feedback process and make it as simple for customers or clients as possible. The easier it is for them to leave feedback, the more feedback you’ll receive. If you provide them a way to give you feedback directly, then you have a chance to address concerns before they’re pushed in front of the public eye.

Likewise, giving them healthy places to vent (like customer service or support forums) will help cut down on the number of high-ranking negative reviews.

When it comes to asking customers to leave a review, here are a few ways you can do it:

  • Train your employees to ask customers to leave a review as part of the payment process.
  • Integrate online reviews, or a similar product into your point-of-sale system to automatically ask each customer for a review of your business.
  • Open the conversation by asking open-ended questions such as, “Did you find what you were looking for today?”, “How would you rate our customer service?”, “What kind of experience did you have with our brand/product/service during your visit?”

Responding to Feedback

One important lesson that anyone using reputation management needs to learn, is that addressing a problem is better than letting it fester. A negative review can be dealt with if you respond to it properly. Leave it alone, though, and it offers its unfavorable opinion unchallenged. The key is knowing how to respond.

Done properly, you can sometimes turn critics around and turn them into loyal customers. Barring that, you can show other customers that you care whether or not your customers have a good experience.

Start by training whoever will be responding to handle complaints tactfully. Showing genuine concern and care for the customer is something that Greg Bullock of Theraspecs encourages. “Difficult conversations with a frustrated customer can turn sour very quick, but our team has developed a cadence for delivering meaningful support with sincere care even in instances where we are unable to reach an optimal outcome for the customer,” he says.

Nathan Sansby of FM Outsource agrees that taking responsibility by displaying remorse is the best tactic. “Own whatever lead to a customer leaving that poor review,” he says, “apologize, and do your best to turn the situation around.”

In your efforts to grease the squeaky wheels, don’t neglect those who sing your praises. According to Sansby, it’s best to “avoid ONLY replying to negative reviews. Show customers leaving good reviews some love too to keep them coming back.” By responding to both positive and negative reviews, you prove that you’re listening, and you care about what kind of experience customers have.

Course Correcting

Some critics will say something of value, offering an honest critique of your brand, and those shouldn’t be ignored. When you receive negative feedback, consider it and determine if it’s an indication of a real problem. If it is, be willing to make any necessary changes.

This is the tactic that’s endorsed by Mazdak Mohammadi of blueberry cloud. “If we’re able to use negative reviews to make ourselves better, then we can continue to grow as a business and serve our customers better.” Not only can you potentially change the mind of the critic, but you will also ensure there won’t be any more of those complaints in the future.

3. Your Online Reputation Management Plan

63% of Podium customers say online reviews have helped them improve business processes thus impacting their online reputation.

4 people speaking and smiling.

When creating an Online Reputation Management plan, you should follow these 9 tactics. Each of these tactics will uniquely help your reputation among customers:

  1. Get reviews by delivering good work
  2. Focus on customer service
  3. Write back to negative reviews
  4. Set a Google Alert for your business
  5. Learn from negative interactions
  6. Have fun with your brand voice
  7. Change public perception with charity
  8. Involve your customer in your business decisions
  9. Practice transparency

#1 – Get Reviews by Delivering Good Work

One of the best ways to boost your online reputation is to get reviews by delivering good work. Providing reviews has become an everyday occurrence in our lives, so why not ask your customers for them? The best way to do this is to deliver good work and to make it easy for customers to give you a review. Reputation management software can help make the whole process easier for everyone so make sure you invest in the right things for your business. Reviews can boost your popularity, help future customers make decisions, and increase SEO rankings.

# 2 – Focus on Customer Service

Just like you care about delivering good work to your clients, never overlook the value of customer service in your business. In a digital world, one interaction can destroy a reputation (there are a complete recent of celebrity downfalls that show exactly how this can ruin a brand name).

#3 – Respond to Negative Reviews

Too many business owners avoid negative reviews when they see them online. This is the worst technique because your customers might see your silence as agreement and future customers might assume you don’t care. If you see a negative review, be sure to respond and keep your cool when dealing with customers. Responses can actually serve as a catalyst for better SEO, better customer relationships and set you apart from the competition.

#4 – Set a Google Alert for Your Business Name

Instead of searching the internet for each mention of your brand, set a Google Alert for your business name. This gets you notifications based on mentions of your business name, helping keep track of your media coverage efforts. If there is a negative remark made, you won’t miss it with a Google alert.

#5 – Learn from Negative Interactions

Even the negative review or the bad service was not your fault, take a step back with every interaction and learn from the negatives. Pay attention to everything your customers say. Small changes like a product description update, more training for your staff, better rules laid out in your email signups, and minor corrections all make a difference in your brand.

#6 – Have Fun with Your Brand Voice

Think about the companies you follow on social media. What makes you enjoy the company? Why do you love it? The most notable brands in the industry all speak with a voice that generates a feeling. Even for serious topics, speak directly to your audience and let them know about the people behind the brand!

#7 – Change Public Perception with Charity

If you are fighting an uphill battle against a negative reputation, you’ll need to give your brand a face via charitable giving. A company that did this successfully was Microsoft. In the 90s, they were thought of as a huge corporation but now they are a huge corporation known for giving back. A small act can make a difference in the way your potential and current customers see your brand.

#8 – Involve Your Customer in Your Business Decisions

An interesting way to generate customer loyalty and manage your reputation is through engagement. Involve the customer in your business decisions through customer surveys, informal questions, and even just asking their ideas. This form of business relations generates goodwill.

#9 – Practice Transparency

The news travels quickly now and you simply cannot hide a public relations issue. Rather than shying away from them, face any PR problems head-on and honestly. There are several companies in recent history that has endured data breaches, without any major consequences, because of their transparency in the breach. It is better to be upfront than to cover it up.

The right reputation management techniques can bring your business from the bottom of Google to the top of the search results. The right techniques can also guide customer experience improvements, new business ideas, and more loyal customers.

How Taylor Automotive is Using Podium Reviews for Reputation Management Software 

When Taylor Automotive started using Podium Reviews, it’s rating on Google was under 3 stars. Podium Reviews helped Taylor Automotive address the problem from multiple angles. First, Podium Reviews helped aggregate all of the dealership’s reviews in one convenient dashboard, making them easier to manage. Podium Reviews also enabled Taylor Automotive to send out automated review requests, which lead to a massive spike in online reviews. Taylor Automotive started with just 153 reviews. After implementing Podium Reviews, it had a total of 2,647 reviews in under a year. With Podium Reviews, Taylor Automotive also enjoyed other impressive results: its star rating skyrocketed from 2.96 to 4.76, traffic to its website increased by 21 percent, internet leads increased by 62 percent, and the dealership enjoyed an increase in sales.

At Podium, helping local businesses offer convenient customer interactions is what we do. 92% of our customers say that positive online reviews make the sale easier, and 73% of our clients have seen a dramatic improvement in SEO. We have the expertise (if that wasn’t already obvious) and the tools to help any brand overcome negative attention and build customer trust.

Check out our reputation management hub for more advice, articles, and help with reputation management.

Matt Boyce
Matt Boyce Head of SMB Marketing

Matt Boyce is a marketing and business professional at Podium, the premiere messaging platform that connects local businesses with their customers.

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