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How to Manage Online Reviews: Your Reputation Precedes You

How to Manage Online Reviews: Your Reputation Precedes You

These days no deed, good or bad, goes unpunished.  The age of the internet has given birth to the online review, meaning how you treat customers, especially the negative, is more widely known than ever before.  Unhappy customers, and happy ones if you are lucky, have many options for letting everyone know exactly what they think of your business quickly and easily.  While the very best way to manage your online reputation is to offer stellar customer service, things happen.  An employee has a bad day, something slipped through the cracks, or a competitor pays someone to write a negative review.  How can you manage your online reviews and be certain that you keep your good name, and your profits, in good standing?

Ask for Reviews and Make it Easy

In some ways online reviews are like credit.  No online reputation is the same as a bad online reputation.  If someone is making a decision and your business has no reviews while a competitor has even as low as a 3 star rating, they are likely going to get the business.  Customers feel that at least they know some people have had a positive experience there, and with you they are fighting the fear of the unknown.  Combat this and build a positive online reputation by following this one simple tip: ask for a review.  Make is easy for customers to let the world know what they think, after you have offered them stellar customer service of course.  Those who are unhappy will likely not need any prompting, but happy customers do not always think to leave a review.  Some ways to encourage them to do so include:

  • Post a sign or signs that are highly visible around the business asking for reviews if they are happy and letting them know a simple way to do so.
  • Post a link to reviews on your website inviting customers to check them out and leave their own.
  • Sign up for a service that emails customers after they have done business with you, asking them to leave a review about their experience with a direct link for them to follow.
  • Ask for a rating on Facebook or other social media.

You won’t always get it, but it never hurts to ask.  Be aware this could lead to some negative reviews also, as you can never please everyone all of the time. Those things are going to happen regardless.  The goal here is to get your many happy customers to post reviews as well.

Stay on Top of Things

Other than offering great customer service and a great product on the front end, the most important element in managing your online reputation is knowing what it is.  This can be tricky because there are multiply sites that allow customers to leave reviews and ratings.  The best way to stay informed is to sign up for a fee service, such as Google Alerts, that lets you know each time your business is mentioned online.  Another option is to hire a paid reputation service that handles things for you.

Respond Quickly and Appropriately

Once you know what is being said and where, you can respond.  Respond to both positive and negative reviews.  For those that had a great experience, a simple thank you for the review will suffice.  For negative reviews, be certain to apologize, note that you wish they would have let someone know at the time (if they did not), and ask them to contact you further so that you can try to make it right.  Also, it is important to note if an issue has been corrected going forward.  For example, if someone is reporting a specific waiter or hotel staff member offered poor service, has that staff member been further trained or even let go?  Do no, under and circumstances, post canned responses to reviews.  That will be noted quickly by anyone researching your business by reading online reviews.

Find the Hidden Social Media

Of course you love to see comments and ratings on your business’s social media accounts, but be aware of other “groups” where your reputation may precede you.  Many towns and cities across the country have unofficial Facebook groups specifically for recommending, or not, local businesses.  If a member hires a contractor and they are not happy, they can let virtually the whole town know with one post.  If the lady at the checkout at the local grocery store was rude, everyone can know as soon as she posts from her right there in line.  Seek out these groups in your town and those nearby from which you may get business and follow the same protocol.

A Note About Fake Reviews

Unfortunately some competitors play dirty, and some people will do anything for a buck.  To this end, there are plenty of writers out there that are willing to write fake reviews for money.  Learn how to spot these and what to do about them.  On review sites, click on that person’s name to see other reviews left.  If all of them are negative, that is a huge red flag.  Also, poor grammar can be a sign of a fake review.  Of course not everyone that leaves a legitimate review has impeccable grammar, but severe grammar issues are also a big tip off.   If you think you have spotted a fake review, contact the review site with your findings.   They can further check it out and may remove it.  If all else fails, respond that you believe the review is a fake.

Technology and even online reviews can be a great thing, but every rose has its thorn.  Word of mouth is powerful, and it is a tool you want to keep on your good side.  Offering the best possible service is the first step, but knowing what is being said, where it is being said, and responding appropriately is necessary to keeping your online reputation strong for years to come.  Hopefully these tips will help.

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by Faith Stewart // Wife, mom, and freelance writer that earned a BBA with a major in accounting and spent 10 years working in the field before pursuing her passion for helping small business owners and entrepreneurs through writing.

Opinions expressed by contributors are their own.