The World Wide Web has truly transformed the world; including, the way in which people communicate, gather and provide information, the ability to watch hundreds of videos without moving from a couch, and arguably one of the most important ways the internet has changed the world: the access to every individual and business online.
With access to you or your company only a click away for billions of people, your online reputation is extremely important. The days of just a few critics writing a column in the Sunday newspaper have passed with the common world of the Internet. Today, we live in a culture that takes multiple voices to form opinions about a business.
This can work in your favor or against you. Within minutes, your name could be branded positively or negatively in the minds of the world with just one web search. Customer reviews will either make or break your business. Customer reviews can be left all over the Internet. There are, of course, mainstream sources people will go to to leave and read reviews, such as Yelp, Yellow Pages, Facebook, and even your website.
However, there are many more websites on the Internet dedicated to leaving reviews about your business as well. These sites may seem obscure or unimportant, but don’t be fooled. Potential customers are reading these reviews just as previous or current customers are taking the time to leave comments on them. Knowing this, many businesses are now employing online reputation management software to help get a handle on their reviews
Your website hopefully looks and runs fabulously, but the majority of potential customers checking your online reviews will make their decision based on what they read by previous customers. Here are the facts:
- 88% of the online population will take the time to read reviews
- 86% – 90% of these customers will make their choice on your product or service based upon online reviews
- 88% of these customers take online reviews as seriously as if it were a personal recommendation or criticism
Surprisingly, the main source for reviews found in your favor will come from Facebook. However, the leading source of negative reviews are found on multiple review sites, which can be harder to track for you as a business owner. As you know, businesses must be constantly making improvements to keep up with competition and to hopefully become the premier service or product in your category. Utilizing a software that helps with small business reputation management can help save time and make the process manageable.
Reviews are a primary way to either make changes or enhance what is already being done well. With so many review sites available to consumers, it can quickly become a full-time job keeping up with what is being said about you and your business. Not only do you want to be in the know of your online reviews, but you also want to be able to make adjustments and even contact the individual reviewer.
Based the general sites like Yelp, Google and Facebook, you will want to make sure you monitor industry specific sites. For doctors, RateMDs and Vitals are critical to watch. TripAdvisor is the biggest one for hotel reputation management, but matters very little for other industries.
If you could turn a displeased customer into a happy customer time and time again, negative feedback would not be so negative. Negative feedback turned to constructive criticism may open your eyes to needed adjustments and ultimately making you a stronger and better business as long as you make those changes.
And potentially, fewer negative comments will be made about your business. So why do all these reviews on social media and websites even matter? Because these reviews make up your online reputation! Even those reviews that may seem to be placed on an obscure site make a difference to how you are viewed by the Internet world.
Soon after a perspective customer has begun reading reviews, they won’t take long to begin forming an opinion about your business’s service or product. In general, customers will read less than 10 reviews before forming an opinion and making a decision about your product or business.
This short timeframe is crucial to attracting perspective clients and turning them into customers. With a highly positive online reputation you will catch the attention and business you desire. With all this talk about the importance of your online reputation, it is important to always know what your reputation is!
For some, they may be surprised to find out the truth of what people think of their business. To begin, use a search engine and simply type in your business name. What shows up first? If your business has a strong Internet presence, you should find your main website and all your social media sites as the first few results in the search, online reviews web pages should follow.
When viewing your search results, be sure to look at the first three pages of the results, not just the first. Those on pages two and three are still high contenders for moving to the first page. If you are finding reviews out there hurting your business, be sure to not only read them but also understand what the customer is saying. Your business has a better chance of succeeding if you listen to the public and address issues as needed.
There is no sense in trying to make your business better if you won’t listen to what people are saying about you and your business. Good business owners are always striving to make their business better, which means looking for ways you can improve your online reputation. With a strong and positive reputation on the Internet, you will bring in more business.
The 6 following tips are ways you can improve your online reputation:
–Make sure you have a strong social media presence. Social media (Facebook, twitter, Instagram, vine, etc.) is quickly taking over how people spend their time on the Internet. Having a strong presence on social media can bring you more customers.
Don’t just make a page on these sites, regularly update them and connect with current consumers and potential customers. If you have negative reviews on sites showing up as some of your top search pages, you can usually move these down in the search results by making a profile on different social media platforms.
*Those customers active on Twitter and Facebook tend to expect a quick response. Be sure to have a trusted employee or someone connected and knowledgeable with your business responding to them in a decent timeframe (if you are too busy to do so).
–Respond to negative reviews. However, do not go on the defense, as this will just deter people from your business even more. If something truly upsets you, don’t respond right away. Take your time, walk away from the computer (if you need to) and respond when you feel calm. When the business personally apologizes and owns up to mistakes, people notice, especially those reading the reviews.
It is also a chance to show readers this experience may not be normal and reassure them you are a business that is personally involved and listening to the customers. Also, don’t just respond to these negative reviews, make changes as need be and learn from mistakes or communication errors.
–Respond to positive reviews as well. Offer a reward like a coupon or simply say thank you. This kind of response is remembered and people will keep this in mind for the future.
-Be aware of your personal reputation and behavior. You are affiliated with your business and while you may try to keep the two separate, customers and potential customers will always tie you and your business together. Many business reputations have been damaged by the owner’s personal life choices and behavior.
As a CEO, you should be seen as a respected businessman or woman, but that becomes challenging when others see you acting in ways that say otherwise. This of course includes your personal life and what is seen on your personal social media pages. So don’t just act like a respectable businessman or woman, BE the respectable businessman or woman in all walks of your life.
-Always know what is being posted on your website and social media sites. You want to constantly monitor what the Web is saying about you. If you have handed this task over to an employee, keep an eye them. You don’t want misleading information getting out to the public or an upset employee posting anything that could compromise your reputation. This goes for review sites as well.
-Concentrate on the important sites. As your business grows, keeping track of your online reputation can become more challenging. Focus on the most important and looked at sites first: Yelp, Google, Twitter, and Facebook.
However, this is not an excuse to always ignore other reputation making or breaking platforms. Monitor smaller or more obscure sites periodically. You always want to aim for 4.5-5 stars on a review site from at least 18 reviewers.
With these sort of numbers, your online reputation will be remarkable and cause strong competition for your competitors. Those searching your product or services on review sites will be drawn to your business as these are trustworthy numbers. We’ve talked about the importance of your online reputation and ways to improve it, but we need to talk about how to get reviews and build your reputation.
-Build customer relationships. This is especially important if you are a local business. One way to grow relationships is by having a newsletter and making it available online (email and website). Have some sort of form for those walking in your business door they can add their name and email to for up to date information and even sales or coupons. Be sure to reach out to both those walking in person and those online. You never know who is going to leave a review.
-Encourage customers to write reviews. It may not be possible to interact with each and every customer; but with those you are able to interact with, encourage them to leave a review on yelp or other review sites.
You can even have a link on your social media pages or website leading them to where you are encouraging reviews to be made. The search engine Google will often give a higher placement to those businesses that receive more positive reviews. But remember, do not force, be subtle about this.
-Showcase reviews in your business and even on your social media posts. When you are placing reviews where they will be seen, customers and potential customers will see them first. By doing this, you are showing the people you care about what they have to say and are listening. You are also helping to form that stronger online reputation you desire.
-Do NOT pay for reviews. There are ways online to pay for reviews to make you look good. However, this is not only against FTC and Google’s legal policies, it is morally wrong. If it looks obvious you paid for reviews, customers will not trust you. Also, do not offer free incentives for customers to leave reviews.
This is the same as paying for a review. Your reviews need to be legitimate for you to be trusted and if it gets out you are behaving in this way, you will quickly lose trust and your reputation may plummet.
-Shine with great customer service. Running a business successfully requires some kind of decent customer service. If you do not excel in this area, you need to focus on improving customer service. With great customer service, people will be happy with you and be motivated to leave positive reviews.
While there are always multiple areas of a business in which reviews are made, a good portion of negative experiences come from customer service:
- 72% of customer service complaints are made because they have to explain the issue with multiple representatives
- 51% of customer service experience was upsetting to the consumer, as the issue was not resolved due to poor interaction
- 58% of consumers said they have recently (within the past 5 years) began leaving more and more online reviews based upon customer service
- 100% of customers who make over $150,000 annually claim to leave reviews when it comes to a poor customer service experience
Remember your goal should be happy and satisfied customers, knowing your online reputation and reading reviews will help equate to this. But remember, don’t just know and read what is said about your business, reach out and listen to the customer. Don’t let the customer make or break your business, you can take control and make or break your business by your response to your reputation and reviews!
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