Undoubtedly, no single thing matters as much for increasing sales and engendering loyalty as building a great customer service brand. And considering the immediate and ubiquitous nature of the Internet—where details about a negative customer experience can spread like wildfire—it’s more important than ever for small business owners to join the conversation online and help to manage their company’s reputation.
Whether you like it or not, consumers are most likely talking about your business on the Internet. And if you’ve recently heard about a customer service problem at your business, it’s likely that you became aware of the situation in the same way that most consumers do: by finding a review about your company via a search engine.
So how can you be proactive about managing your reputation online? Let’s look at two ways:
Increase the number of online reviews about your company. You can begin this process by asking your top customers to post a review about your business on customer review sites such as Yelp.com and MeasuredUp.com. By asking your top customers to post reviews, you’ll likely generate a number of complimentary reviews quickly and easily. These reviews will help to offset any existing negative reviews, help to increase your visibility on search engines, and help to attract potential customers who are searching for your products or services online.
When you come across a complimentary review about your business, you should add a quick “Thank You” in response, and mention that you appreciate the support of your customers.
Respond to negative online reviews about your company. You can tackle this effort by having a staff member—who understands your company culture and brand—spend a few hours each week searching the Internet for unflattering reviews about your company. (Note: There are online tools available that can help you accomplish this.)
When there’s a comment field available in a review, the staff member should respond with some helpful and constructive content that shows that you care about providing good customer service. In addition, they should state that they are an employee of the company. The respondent should never pretend to be a consumer, because that deception will likely be discovered, and will likely produce even more uncomplimentary content.
The employee should also include a link to your website in the response, which can help to drive traffic back to your website.
The goal here is not to have only good reviews, because even some of the best companies have bad reviews written about them. The goal is to achieve an effective balance, and to make sure that you don’t allow uncontrolled rumors to spread online. You also want to demonstrate through association that your brand is focused on good customer service . . . and that you’ll take steps to improve it when you fall short.
By leveraging online reviews about your company in your favor, you can often have a greater impact on the purchasing intent of consumers—who are deciding what to buy and where to buy it—than even the best TV commercial or magazine ad can have.
Marc Karasu is a senior marketing executive and digital marketing expert with 20 years’ experience. He’s also the founder of MeasuredUp.com, a leader in online customer service solutions and online reputation management. You can reach Marc via MeasuredUp.com or MAKtaste.com, his marketing consulting website.
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