Managing your online reputation is like trying to climb the North Ridge of K2 with shorts, a t-shirt and a $20 pair of hiking boots from Walmart. It seems like the bigger your company grows, the more negative reviews pop up. The harder you work to resolve an issue, the more people seem to crop up all over complaining about how little effort and compassion your company has.
This is just the way customer service works. No company has a perfect reputation. However, the easiest way to permanently tarnish your online notoriety is to:
- Be clueless about the good/bad things people are posting about you.
- Thinking that ignoring negative reviews means “you’re taking the high-road.”.
- Believing you can set the record straight by telling the prospective customers who may read your reviews just how wrong, stupid and disillusioned the nay-sayers really are about you.
The following 3 tips are the foundation of any good online reputation management plan:
1. Monitor Vigilantly
This can be easier said than done if you’re a one or two-person company. Still, how can you possibly manage your reputation if you don’t know about the negative reviews being spread all over cyberspace about you? And finding out about them a year from now is way too late to do anything about them.
Actively doing things to build a good reputation while leaving the bad unattended to is like building a house on a termite-infested foundation or filling your car tire with a hole in it every day before making a 200-mile commute. Eventually, the walls are gonna cave in. Or the tire’s going to blow out while you’re driving 60MPH down a busy interstate during rush hour.
Effective monitoring is a situation where you really want to outsource tracking to a company that specializes in scouring every blog, social account, image, etc., for anything good or bad being said about you. There are several companies who manage this sort of thing. Make sure you’re hyper-vigilant about who you choose.
If you’re not yet at the point where you can afford to spend hundreds a month for real people to monitor what’s being said about you, consider at least using some good reputation tracking software.
Remember, once a problem is discovered – apologize.
2. Don’t Ignore Them
Once something is posted online, it’s going to be there conceivably forever – or until there isn’t a single power-grid left on the planet.
Whether we’re talking about review sites or online forums, you can’t ignore any of them. You could try hiring a reputation management firm to help you push down negative reviews on search engine result pages, but that doesn’t solve the underlying problems. Remember, your customers are your best evangelist, so you have to be sincere in your effort.
An apology is always the best answer to any negative review. Say you’re sorry and make it clear that the customer can contact you anytime to resolve their issue – with a direct phone number and email whenever possible.
This not only helps quell the negative reviewers. It’ll help bolster your reputation for years to come, as people who “Google” you will not only see that there was a definite complaint, but also that you showed your company’s worth by actively responding to, and working to solve whatever the issue was.
3. The Truth Can Hurt You
The truth hurts many business owners who decide to engage (negatively) with customers who may just be lying to the rest of the world about their experience with you and your company. The fault here is becoming too emotionally invested in the situation and thinking that your righteousness will prevail. When the reality of the situation (i.e., company vs. jilted customer) dictates it won’t.
Yes, there may be folks who’ll say they tried to contact you 12 hours-a-day, 6 days-a-week for a month’s time, and you or your customer service team was nowhere to be found. They claim to have given up “giving you the chance to rectify their issue.” Perhaps in reality, they called once to complain and you offered a perfectly fine solution to their problem – but never heard back from them again til the offending review popped up on the radar.
You know the customer is wrong, contrary to the opposing view that they’re “always right”. You sign up for an account on the review site and go about “setting the record straight,” telling everyone politely that the customer’s wrong, even giving supporting evidence to back up your claim.
Surely any intelligent person will agree that you have every right to defend yourself. This person’s trying to hurt you – they’re giving you no choice but to tell the truth.
However, all this practice will accomplish is to tell readers that you’re unapologetic and know nothing about turning a wrong to a right. And that when and if they have a problem, you’re going to blame them and offer no reasonable resolution.
When you think about going on the defense – apologize instead.
Did I Forget Something?
Probably. There are tons of potential tips, tricks and tools for managing your reputation.
The fact is that if you’re always monitoring, responding and making sure you don’t get emotionally invested or “too truthful” about how things really were/are between you and the Negative Nancy’s leaving bad reviews about you – you’ll already be better than most of your competition.
Oh yeah, and did I forget – always apologize.
Who cares if they’re wrong. You know it, your staff knows it, your wife or husband probably knows it too. You’ll never be successful in customer service (which inevitably defines your online reputation) if you can’t humble yourself to the collective crowd of prospective customers reading/listening to everything said about you.
Reputation Photo via Shutterstock
I agree. The best path is to always apologize. This will make you seem humble and more accommodating even when it comes to problems and more people will be more likely to trust you.
Great article, Ivan. I work at Review Concierge, and we help doctors respond to reviews. One of the issues that doctors face is they don’t want their ‘apology’ to be construed an admission of any sorts. When we apologize, it’s about how the person feels. Then, we go into — from a general perspective, as a college professor would perhaps answer a question — the pro’s, con’s and side effects of whatever billing issue or medical procedure the review complains about. By neutrally stating what’s to be expected, the doctor seizes the high ground and comes across as an expert who cares enough to respond to his patients online.
Thanks for sharing your insight. I agree – apologizing in itself won’t add value to your customers; adding insight to it would delight them.
Ivan, could you mention some companies that have been good at handling negative reviews from customers, and then turned them around to loyal ambassadors.