In today’s digital world, everyone has a voice. And for better or for worse, every brand is at the mercy of its reviewers.
With 70% of consumers consulting online reviews before purchasing, and with our increasing dependence on social media, you better believe those star ratings are having an impact.
The upside is that brands are receiving priceless testimonials direct from the source and companies are doing more to improve products (not just advertisements) in response to customer feedback.
The downside is that sometimes a product fluke, a small misunderstanding, or a minor customer service incident can blow up online and cause irrevocable damage to a brand’s reputation. Sites like Google, Yelp, Health Grades and others give everyone a megaphone.
In the same way that positive feedback can boost sales, negative reviews can directly affect your bottom line. Businesses can lose contracts, employees can get fired, and brand reputations can take a blow – whether or not the negative information is true.
Nevertheless, the situation isn’t hopeless. There are things you can do today to mitigate the potential damage. In some cases, by following these guidelines, you may be able to prevent bad reviews all together.
Here is a list of tactics to fix a bad online reputation:
Make it a priority to be alert and monitor your online reputation. You can use Google Alerts to monitor mentions of your business name, the names of your products, and even your competitors. Here’s how to set up Google Alerts. You may also want to monitor employee complaint platforms like Glassdoor.
Written reviews, video reviews, vlogs and other social mentions may be lurking in corners of the Internet you don’t frequent, so monitor key phrases regularly. Here are some other free tools you can use to monitor your company name, product names, or personal brand.
Work hard to build and reward a loyal following. Actively update your online and social profiles with fresh, useful, relevant content. If interaction with your brand is consistently positive, a customer is more likely to be forgiving of a one-off bad experience. You’ll also find that loyal customers will come to your defense when someone makes a disparaging remark. Reward your loyal supporters by giving them exclusive content, products or experiences.
Address common issues up front. This can be done on an optimized FAQ page on your website, in a blog post, in an email blast, or on your social media profiles. Ask your customer service team to provide you with a list of complaints your brand often receives. Then work to clarify customer misunderstandings proactively.
Address the negative feedback head-on. A bad review is negative feedback that usually results in a one-star rating visible on Google or Yelp. When encountering such a review, your first instinct might be to ignore it.
But according to ReviewTrackers, the key is to respond quickly before the bad review drives customers away.
Take a look at these startling statistics:
Don’t argue with the author of a negative review. Address the author of the comment directly, by name, and take the conversation offline to Direct Message or email, if possible. Take an objective look at the situation, respond with tact, and acknowledge what the company is perceived to have done wrong.
If the problem is legitimate, be transparent about it. Tell the customer what really happened and how you’re addressing it, so it doesn’t happen again. Don’t make up excuses.
Remember a few years back when Dominos sought to repair its wrecked reputation? The company’s honesty and humility eventually won back a loyal following.
Finally, offer a plan to make it right. This may be a refund or exchange, or it may just be a simple conversation. Sometimes the customer just needs an acknowledgement of wrongdoing and an apology.
Customers understand that no business is perfect. As long as a business is listening and working to better itself, its reputation will outlive the negative commentary – it just takes time. Which brings us to our final point.
Be patient. Building a good reputation doesn’t happen overnight. We have an insatiable urge to fix a damaged reputation immediately, but the truth is, it’s a long process. In the meantime, ask happy customers to post reviews and positive comments to help outweigh the negative ones, and sit tight!