How to manage your online reputation

I was recently interviewed by SmartCompany on how business owners can manage their online reputation and deal with negative comments on the web (read the article¬†here).Below, I’ll share some of my thoughts.

Although most business leaders acknowledge the importance of creating a presence on the internet and social media, many are worried about the potential threats to their online reputation. Often, one of the first things I’m asked when speaking to a potential new client is how we will make sure no one will write negative comments on their Facebook page. My answer? You don’t.

Traditionally, managing your brand’s reputation was easy if you had a good public relations strategy in place. Businesses were in control of the messages and information being spread about their products/services. The internet has radically changed this and anyone can now talk about your business in a public forum, accessible to anyone.

It’s vital for businesses to understand that the potential threat to their reputation exists regardless of whether they have an online presence or not. Your customers are already using the internet and they will share their business experiences online, good and bad – whether you like it or not.

online reputation managementBut by proactively dealing with this – by, for example, creating a Facebook page and responding to customers who leave negative feedback – you now have the opportunity to address their concerns, fix their problems and turn the disgruntled customer into a happy one. Plus, everyone else will see how well you handled the issue and it will reflect well on your level of customer service.
………………………………………………………………………….. If you didn’t have a platform such as a Facebook page where people could share their feedback with you, they’d still complain, but they’d do it to their friends and networks on their own social media profiles where you’d have no opportunity to solve their problems and turn things around. Or they’d leave you a scathing review on sites like Word of Mouth Online, Product Review Australia or Eatability.

I tell my clients that they should always respond to any type of feedback, and preferably within a 24 hour timeframe. It’s best to take the conversation “offline” – meaning, take it out of the pubic forum and deal with the customer directly via email or telephone. If you have a dedicated customer service team, provide the customer with their contact details. Or arrange for your customer service team to give them a call. But respond – that’s the most important thing. No one likes to feel like their problems don’t matter.

Make sure your response is always polite and helpful, no matter how angry or negative the customer is. And don’t let yourself be drawn into an argument, no matter how right you are.

Many online review websites, like TripAdvisor and Eatability, now allow businesses to respond to public reviews. Taking this proactive reputation management approach is vital. I recently read a comment from a TripAdvisor reviewer who said, “Management isn’t even responding to any of these reviews – that shows you how much they care.” Show that you DO care: take a few minutes everyday to identify the online conversations about your brand and see where you can contribute to turn unhappy customers into happy ones.”

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