In the brave new world of Online Reputation Management, businesses have the opportunity to shape customer perceptions as never before.
Experts might say it’s more than an opportunity; it is an obligation.
By now, the importance of Online Reputation Management (ORM) is well established. Billionaire businessman Warren Buffett summed it up nicely when he said that the reputation of a business can be built over many years, but destroyed in five minutes. “We can afford to lose money,” he told his senior managers. “But we can’t afford to lose reputation.”
In today’s online world, the secret to success is ORM. A great reputation is what sets your business apart from the competition. It leads to positive brand recognition, and brand recognition is worth its weight in gold.
Every company wants its reputation to sparkle; to be so good that its brand becomes synonymous with the product. Think about it: Popsicles, Bubble Wrap, Q-tips, Scotch Tape, Kleenex, and even Dumpster began as, or still are, copyrighted brand names. As far as the public is concerned, they can be used generically. Their reputations are so good, they define the product and describe other brands in the same product category. Their competitors might be spending a lot of money on advertising campaigns, but in the public mind, these products are established as number one.
So how can you establish your company as the first choice in its class?
Market research strategists will tell you that in today’s online business environment, Online Reputation Management is the most important factor in determining your conversion rates. How do your customers and potential customers assess your company’s reputation? In a word: reviews.
More specifically, online reviews – such as those you find on Angie’s List, Epinions.com, Amazon, and other sites. An enormous amount of market research describes the importance of online reviews. Sure, some don’t tell you much, with comments like, “This business sucks!” But they can be creative, too, lavishing a business – yours? – with praise, or blasting it with inventive trash talk.
Whether they’re right is almost beside the point; those reviews make a difference. Eighty-five percent of consumers claim to read online customer reviews for local businesses, and sixty-five percent say they prefer businesses with mostly good online reviews. Those numbers definitely carry weight.
The Upside to Anger?
Dissatisfied customers aren’t usually shy about sharing their disappointment with a brand. The first chance they get, they’re on their smart phones telling review sites and social media sites about a bad experience with a business.
But guess what? Even negative reviews have an upside. “Criticism can actually add credibility, especially if your customer service team responds in a respectable fashion,” wrote Fatcow blogger Jen Merry. “Showing that you’re actually listening and responding can go a long way in the eyes of your customers.”
As you respond to negative reviews, remember:
- Respond quickly and appropriately, and don’t blame the person who wrote the review.
- Tell the reviewer you’ll correct the problem, and follow through.
- Be brief. Your response is there for the whole world to see.
- Try to get reviews that are defamatory or have no credibility removed.
Of course, positive reviews are preferable. But it can be challenging to get satisfied customers to share their experiences. It’s okay to encourage good reviews, especially in the service industry. “If you like us, share it!” might, for example, appear on a restaurant menu. Or you can put direct links to your review profile on your company website. You might offer incentives for those who take the time to write a review (though for ethical reasons, be neutral; ask for reviews, not necessarily good reviews). And be sure that your employees understand how important it is to get positive reviews from your customers.
Above all, be proactive. That is the most important part of your ORM strategy. And remember that help is just a mouse click away. Visit InternetReputation.com, one of the industry’s top-rated firms, to find out more about Online Reputation Management strategies that work.