Your customers are criticizing you — and everyone is listening.
Local review sites are changing the playing field of small business by becoming the new Yellow Pages. These one-stop platforms where customers can find a business and also see independent critiques of its performance are important in today’s marketplace.
What do you do to manage your online reputation when everybody is being critical?
As a business owner criticism from customers is a terrifying prospect that seems more like mob rule than the wisdom of crowds. Negative reviews can be very damaging if they appear prominently in your search results.
But don’t despair; there is a positive side to this. Referrals from satisfied customers have proven to be one of the best sources of new business. Online forums can be the ultimate form of word-of-mouth advertising, long regarded as the best form of advertising.
Managing your online reputation entails a lot of work, but it is worth it. You will need to monitor the online conversations and engage with customers and the bloggers to promote yourself in the manner.
These tasks are essential for your small business. A survey by the Opinion Research Corporation, 84 percent of Americans say online reviews influence their purchasing decisions.
How do you monitor the conversation?
Knowing what customers are saying about your company is primary. Their opinions are important.
Do a vanity search of your business name and see what comes up.
Ask yourself these questions:
- Are you easy to find?
- What is the first impression?
- If you have a Web page and blog, are they kept current?
- Is your business reviewed in online forums or blogs?
Try to look at your business through the eyes of a customer.
Use Google alert to automatically inform you when your business is mentioned in a review, blog or online publication. Many of these sites will automatically send e-mail alerts to you when a review is posted.
How do you manage the information?
Now that you know how to find out what is being said about your company you need to manage the conversations.
First you need to claim your listing on the local search sites such as Google Places and Manta. Most are free, though some offer premium services that you pay a little more to use.
Respond to reviews in a calm and professional tone. If the review makes your angry, take a deep breath and step away from the keyboard. You don’t want to respond until you can answer in a controlled and polite manner. Most conflicts occur when the business responds in a tactless or angry way. Remember, no one ever won an argument with a customer. Try to see the situation from their prospective.
- Complete your profile. The more detailed your profile, the faster your business will appear in search results.
- Don’t feel you need to respond to every review. If the overall consensus is positive about your company, you don’t need to post an answer.
- A negative review does demand special attention. Many companies like to post public apologies and try to appease the angry customer. Many prefer to send a private message to the reviewer.
- A polite response can often placate a hostile critic. It may even result in a loyal customer.
- Don’t post fake reviews or criticize your competition. If caught it could be very embarrassing and damaging to your business.
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