Customers talking about you online? Grab a seat at the table

 
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By Michelle Nieset, VP of Customer Success

Online reputation management is the new word of mouth advertising.

Today’s online customer is no longer a passive audience.  They are instead very vocal about what they like and dislike.  They are also creating user-generated content that can influence your online reputation.

As consumers in the world of “word of mouth” advertising, other customers’ reviews contribute to our decision process.  For example, if you’re pregnant, you’re going to rely heavily on the reviews from other women on the baby stuff you need to purchase.  Same thing with deciding which restaurant to eat at, which stereo speakers to buy, which dermatologist to visit – most of us check the reviews and gravitate towards ones with better ratings.

So that said, I think we can all agree that consumers’ voices, opinions, and reviews influence purchasers.  They also help mold what your online brand looks like. The trick is to be where your customers are talking about you so that you have a seat at the table.  

So let’s explore a couple of core concepts.  Here’s how to make your reputation management efforts impactful:

Be transparent as much as possible.

This is the Golden Rule when it comes to reputation management.  You should be doing these things regularly:  

  • Asking for feedback
  • Involving your employees in chatting up your products and services on social media, and…  
  • Facing criticism head-on.

Speaking of criticism…

When it comes to criticism, many companies panic when they get a bad review online.  And your first instinct might be to delete the negative post. But the truth is, the criticism won’t be what defines you in the end. It’s how you respond (and the fact that you DID respond) that will matter to other customers in the long run.

Some advice on responding to criticism online:

  • Apologize for the bad experience.  Even if you know the customer’s wrong – they’re still upset.  And we don’t like our customers upset!  You can apologize without shouldering the blame, however – for example, “We are sorry to hear that you are upset with the quality of our lamps.”  
  • Give them a way to personally get in touch with someone at your company.  This way, you’re responding to the complaint but then steering the conversation offline.  You could say something like “We take complaints like yours very seriously.  We are eager to talk with you to get this resolved.  Please give us a call at 205-123-4567 .”  
  • Never engage in an argument or a “rebuttal” statement with a customer online.  PERIOD. Even if you’re absolutely in the right.  You will come off as unprofessional, uncaring, and defensive.  These are ALL things we do not want our customers to associate with our brand.  Continue repeating the message that you’re sorry they are upset, and you would like to help them.  This positions you as a sympathetic brand.  The goal is to have other customers think, “geez, this company is genuinely listening to people and trying to resolve their problems.”  And that’s the outcome you definitely want!

Research all the different platforms where your customers talk about you and show up there.  

The faster you respond to online feedback, the more credibility you’ll have.  You should consider:

  • Establishing a benchmark of how quickly your company should respond.
  • Distributing the responsibilities of a team who checks for feedback throughout the day.  

Create a habit of asking for positive feedback.

When your customers have a bad experience, they are motivated to post about it.  However, writing a positive review doesn’t happen without prompting. So establish some methods where you can encourage customers to post positive reviews.  Ask regularly, and ask with some frequency. It’s amazing what happy customers will do for you if you simply ASK them to.

Implementing a strong reputation strategy is hard work.  It also takes time, patience, and resources.  So, if you decide this is important for your company but know you don’t have the manpower to do it properly – reach out to my company Bell Media for assistance!

Bell Media is a leading digital marketing agency that is focused on delivering desired business outcomes for clients. We are a Google Premier Partner, and a 3X Inc 5000 Company, with offices in Montgomery, Birmingham, Nashville, and Houston. We consult with businesses to determine where they want to go with their businesses, and then recommend the best product mix to help them achieve their goals. Check out more of our thought leadership in the Blog section of our website.