It has never been easier for shoppers to check out the companies they do business with. Checking on the online reputation of a business is just a Google search away, and that gives customers more power than ever before.
All that online information is a powerful tool, but only if it is accurate. The anonymity of online comments and user reviews makes it all too easy for someone harboring a grudge to ruin the reputation of a business. All it takes is one bad review to send diners fleeing from a local eatery. A single complaint could be enough to make potential buyers hesitate, even if that complaint is accompanies by glowing reviews.
The unique nature of the Internet makes managing the reputation of your business a critical task. If you fail to keep tabs on what others are saying about you and your firm, you could find yourself out of business in no time.
There are some things business owners can do to manage the online reputation of their firms and get the real word out to potential customers. Businesses can hire reputation management companies to do the leg work for them, but they can also do much of the research and remediation on their own.
Investigate the Claims
The first thing you should do in the face of negative online comments or reviews is investigate the situation. Those bad reviews and poor customer experiences could be planted by competitors or disgruntled employees, but they could also be legitimate.
Look through the comments and look for patterns. Are customers experiencing problems with a particular section of your website? Are many different diners dissatisfied with a particular dish? If you can discern a pattern, your business probably has a legitimate problem. Addressing those concerns and reaching out to reviewers for a second chance can actually help your business in the long run.
Responding to negative reviews may not be easy; many business owners take personal offense to criticisms of their companies. Even so, it is important to acknowledge complaints and respond to them appropriately.
If the comments are in a public forum, you can use that same medium to respond and offer amends. If the commentator included contact information, reach out to the person and ask for a second chance.
Offering a gift card or free meal is a great way to win back a former customer or sooth a disgruntled diner. That individual may even return to the review site and post a new and more positive review later on.
If you feel that the criticism and negative reviews are unwarranted, it is best to reach out to the individual privately. If that is not possible, post a complete explanation on the same forum and give your side of the story.
Do not be argumentative in your response, and do not accuse the poster of planting a bad review to get even with you. Do not allow yourself to be drawn into arguments; that could make you look unprofessional and hurt your business even more.
Give Yourself and Early Warning
It is important to be on the lookout for bad reviews and negative comments. Giving yourself and early warning makes it easier to address any problems before they get blown out of proportion.
One of the best ways to keep tabs on what others are saying is to set up Google Alerts. That way you will receive an email as soon as a comment is posted, giving you plenty of time to track down the poster and respond to their problem.
You will never be able to totally eliminate negative reviews, even unwarranted ones. It is simply impossible to please every customer every time, and some people simply have unrealistic expectations. Staying alert, watching for and responding to negative reviews and engaging your customers online is the best way to manage your reputation and keep new customers coming through your doors.