Businesses are becoming more exposed in real time than ever before with online platforms.
BUSINESSES are becoming more exposed in real time than ever before with online platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, Flickr and blogs. Receiving negative online feedback is an unavoidable part of having an online business presence, but there are ways to mitigate the impact they have on your reputation.
It is just as important to manage online complaints as it is to deal with unhappy customers visiting a traditional store. In many ways it can be even more important to manage online customers.
They have immediate recourse to share their experience with online communities who can quickly spread the word to other networks in a matter of minutes, where thousands of potential customers can be alerted to company issues.
Here are my six tips for managing your business’s online reputation.
1. Be aware and get online
If you are not online, you are likely to fall behind your competitors and be unaware of any online conversations about your business. Having online awareness gives you the ability to address a customer’s issue directly before it escalates and damages your reputation.
Entering your business name into a search engine along with ‘reviews’ or ‘complaints”’ can help you assess this. Google Alerts can also monitor mentions of your business and push alerts to you as they happen.
2. Address the complaint immediately
Find out what the problem is straight away and quickly evaluate your options to rectify the situation. Your online community will not only judge you on the complaint, but also how you deal with the issue and respond to it.
Remember that how you respond to a problem is the most important part of the complaint process. Try to take the conversation offline at the earliest opportunity by publicly inviting the customer to contact your office to discuss the issue further.
There is little benefit to be gained from having a complex or serious complaint detailed in an online forum. If the complaint is resolved satisfactorily the customer may post about the resolution of their issue.
3. Don’t start an argument
Be proactive, not reactive. Whether or not a customer has a legitimate complaint, do not get defensive, make up an excuse or assign blame – the customer is always right. Instead, own the situation and take responsibility.
If you remain calm, collected and respectful, it is more likely the customer will too. It also shows other customers that you are concerned and acting professionally. In some cases other loyal customers may side with you and discuss their positive experience.
4. Focus on the positive
For every negative comment about your company, there will be scores of positive ones. Responding to negative reviews is only one part of reputation management, it is just as important to highlight a positive. If you know of a happy customer, encourage them to post online and thank them on the same platform.
5. Maintain a presence
Be active online, it will show your prospects and customers that your business is accessible, responsive and has true personality. Remember, ‘people do business with people’, so knowing that a person is participating online will instill confidence when customers make a purchase.
6. Deliver great customer service
Providing great customer service helps to drive positive reviews and word of mouth that will help outweigh any negative comments. Customer service, online or offline, remains a critical differentiator when building a successful business.
Steven Prestidge is general manager of ReachLocal Australia, which offers a suite of online marketing solutions targeted to the SME market.
Contact Steven through the website www.reachlocal.com.au