Online reputation is important for business, and is broader than it is mostly assumed. It takes much more than a few reviews on Google and Yelp. Any business should expect to deal with issues raised by unhappy or unsatisfied customers. Ideally, you would want to settle customer complaints long before they end up in some public forum, with an angry customer warning everyone—including potential clients—about the business, its products and/or services.
With the global reach offered by the Internet, the damage can reach a point where it might be too late to fix. That doesn’t have to happen. Here is a simple guide to effective online reputation management.
Have a Plan
The problem with most businesses is that they are reactive in nature. You sit back in a comfort zone and enjoy your flourishing business, not knowing that disaster may strike without warning. Very few companies have a reputation management strategy. Some people panic, and their reactions could spark more flames instead of putting it off. With a comprehensive plan in place, it is much easier for a business to work towards maintaining a positive online reputation.
In cases where there are traces of anything that might tarnish the good name; the management should be in a position to spring into action and remedy the situation before it escalates further. Prevention is better than cure, after all, which means that you should concentrate on ensuring that the damage doesn’t occur in the first place, as opposed to waiting to do damage control.
Establish a Solid Online Presence
Establishing a strong online presence across all key Web properties is a necessary process that every business must practice. If you are operating without accounts on Google+, LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook for a start, then you're running the risk of not having any channels to interact with your customer base.
That is not all. Creating these accounts is one thing, but what is more important is to ensure that they are not neglected. Use them to interact with customers, respond to inquiries and keenly monitor what other people are saying about you. It doesn’t hurt to keep an eye on the competitors because some smear campaigns are actually initiated by the competition. If you offer more than one brand or product, you may want to build different social profiles and online material for each.
Listen and Apologize
Before you even think about typing a response to a bad online review or complaint, research and establish the validity first. Could it be true that there is a problem you need to fix? If yes, there is no crime in accepting responsibility, apologize, and outline how you will prevent such an occurrence from happening in the future. After all, the customer is always right, so don’t be so rigid and so focused on defending the company that you forget that there might be a fault from your end. Own up to your shortcomings, and learn from them. Keep tabs on every online mention, or set up a way to get notifications whenever the company’s name is mentioned by anyone online and act fast before it causes unnecessary online buzz.
Don’t Argue Online
You have a role to protect your business and brand identity, but do you have to be sucked into an argument and exchange words with people online? You may be right, but arguing with a person who is determined to prove you wrong is not the right thing to do. Just avoid online arguments – they are not good for the person and the business.
Try out these tips and remember to project your business positively in the eyes of your customers. Sometimes, your loyal customers may come out in your defense whenever someone makes it his or her business to drag your name into the mud, but you have to earn that loyalty by maintaining a positive reputation first.