5 Ways to Protect Your Business’s Online Image by Appropriately Managing Reviews
You might be the best in the world at what you do, and you could have the best advertising strategy in town, but if you don’t keep an eye on your online reputation, your business could suffer.
When it comes to your business, there’s a lot you can control. Your website, your social media profiles, your advertising, and your office environment are all things that you can create to help build your brand.
Reviews, however, are less predictable. While you can work diligently to encourage your satisfied customers to share their experiences online, there’s bound to be an angry customer that slips through the cracks from time to time. No one is perfect, but if you handle both your positive and your negative reviews with class, then you can stand out from the crowd and maintain an online image that presents you as the premier service provider in your community. This is one of the main reasons review software is so common among small businesses.
5 tips to protect your business’s online image by appropriately managing your reviews
- Respond Promptly
If someone writes about your business in a way that seems defamatory, your first instinct might be to ignore the review and hope it gets buried under a mountain of more positive feedback.
However, ignoring negative reviews is one of the worst things you can do. Here’s why:
- Not replying to a complaint sounds like an admission of guilt.
- Ignoring what people are saying about you makes it seem like you don’t care about your customers or their experience.
- You don’t get to share your side.
- You miss a valuable opportunity to make things right, which can both win back a customer and bring new customers to your door.
When you reply, avoid becoming defensive, and never attack your customers in writing. Remember, the customer is always right; even when they aren’t!
- Maintain a Polite and Professional Tone
When you read something about your business that seems false or hurtful, emotions can run high, and you might be tempted to snap back with a justification of the situation, or worse, a personal attack against the reviewer.
Instead of firing off a reply in the heat of the moment, take a step back, walk around the block, and think about how to respond professionally. An angry or defensive reply could end up damaging your reputation further.
Even if the customer is completely wrong in their assessment of the situation, consider the content of their feedback, and view it as constructive criticism.
Are they mad because they had to wait in your lobby for 30 minutes before they were seen? Maybe you could improve how you schedule appointments to ensure that wait times are limited to less than 10 minutes.
Did they feel slighted or ripped off, claiming that you overcharged or billed them for something unnecessary? You could potentially benefit from auditing your communication procedures to ensure that misunderstandings like these don’t occur in the future.
It takes discipline and a clear head to maintain a professional tone. Our advice is to begin by thanking them for their feedback and reiterating that you value their opinion. However, avoid posting a long-winded response that’s specific to the person’s complaint. First, if you’re in the medical field, you could inadvertently violate HIPAA laws. And second, it’s best to move the discussion away from the public so that you can diffuse the situation and work to resolve the matter privately.
Here’s an example of what you could say to an angry customer:
“Thank your feedback, and we apologize for any inconvenience this experience may have caused. We are committed to making this situation right, and would like to reach out to you personally to discuss how we can make this up to you.”
If you would prefer not to admit fault, consider saying something like:
“Thank you for your feedback, and taking the time to share your experience with us. We are committed to 100% customer satisfaction, and if you’re unhappy, we are unhappy. We will personally reach out to discuss this issue with you further and make things right. Thank you again for this valuable feedback.”
Even if the customer is unreasonable or taking their bad day out on you, you’ve taken the high road and instilled a sense of confidence in both prospects reading your reviews and current customers who see what has been written about you online.
- Move the Conversation to a Private Channel
Your instinct might be to showcase your excellent customer service skills by resolving the issue publicly, but we recommend moving the discussion to a more private channel. It could be email, a phone call, or a chat conversation.
The reason is that people are unpredictable. Your efforts to improve the customer’s opinion of your business could result in them ranting further. The more they rant, the worse your company looks, and it can also be hard to maintain control of your emotions under an onslaught of negativity.
Instead, follow our example replies in the previous section and offer to move the discussion off of the review platform.
- Encourage Loyal Customers to Leave Positive Reviews
Unhappy people are more likely to leave reviews than satisfied customers. This puts you at risk for a disproportionate amount of negative reviews, even if you’re doing everything right.
For this reason, we strongly recommend taking a proactive approach and encouraging your most loyal and satisfied customers to share their experiences. Not only does this strategy help bury any negative reviews under a mountain of positives, but it also helps put any negative reviews into perspective.
If you have 50 rave reviews and just a couple of naysayers, then people are likely to put more weight on the positive write-ups and view them as more representative of what it’s like to do business with you.
- Own Your Mistakes
No one is perfect, and people forgive the occasional mistake. If anything, if you haven’t made any missteps, it could even look suspicious.
For example, it would seem odd if a company’s profile had 100 5-star reviews and no neutral or 1-star ratings. Most people would wonder if the reviews were real or if the company had done something suspect to prevent any negative assessments from showing up online.
The ancient philosopher Epictetus is known for saying, “It’s what you do next that matters.” So, regardless of the mistakes you’ve made in the past, you can redeem yourself with the actions you take in the present.
If you made a mistake with a client and they called you out on it, then, by all means, own that mistake and apologize for it. And then, show that you’ve learned your lesson and explain what you are going to do to prevent it from happening again.
You could say something like, “Thank you for bringing this matter to my attention. I am very sorry this happened, and this is not how we do business. We value the time of our customers and aim to keep wait times to a minimum. I’ve personally reviewed this situation and discovered that we did, unfortunately, overbook our schedule that day. We have now updated our scheduling software to prevent this mistake from happening again. Thank you again for sharing what happened. I’ll personally reach out to you to help make up for this unsatisfactory experience.”
While this doesn’t immediately solve the customer’s frustration, it goes a long way toward making up for poor experience and signals to other prospective customers that you don’t shy away from taking responsibility.
The ubiquity of the Internet means that everything customers say about you online is an open book, and it can potentially make or break your business. By keeping a close eye on your reviews and responding to them appropriately, you can turn this somewhat unpredictable channel into one of your most valuable digital assets.