Protecting Your Online Reputation

Protecting Your Online Reputation

In the not-too-distant past, dare I say the 1990’s,  the reputation of your retail business was driven mostly by word-of-mouth with real customers talking to their  real friends about your store and (hopefully) how much they loved it. Today, with the rise of social media, your business reputation can be influenced positively or negatively by the comments of a few website posts, whether on blogs or user review sites such as Yelp and Citysearch.  Online comments and postings have the potential to turn your hard-earned, positive “word-of-mouth” reputation into a negative one very quickly.  However, there are a few simple ways to keep your business’s character positive.

In our retail business, we worked diligently to satisfy thousands of customers.  Most of the time we were successful in that endeavor, even receiving written thank you notes for some of the extra service we provided.   But any time you are open to the public, there are going to be some negative people.   Despite  our best attempts to make a situation right–accepting returns of damaged or worn merchandise– some customers were determined to remain  disgruntled.  In every single case (and fortunately there were only a few) it was an isolated incident and not indicative of a major problem within the business.

yelp reviewUnfortunately, disgruntled customers are the most likely people to go directly to internet sites like Yelp to post grievances and create a stain on your business. (And for some unidentified reason, these are the people who seem to have hours and hours of free time.) Adding insult to injury, the reviewers posting on many of these websites may not even be your customers! But their comments are a powerful influence on those thinking about visiting your store. Following are remedies to unwarranted and unfavorable reviews about your business.

Manage Your Online Reputation

To manage your online reputation we suggest 3 actions:

1. Monitor the web so you know when comments are posted about your business.  Pay special attention to local business review sites.   Many of the monitoring tools to do this are free such as Google Alerts or BlogPulse.

2. Assess the comments to decide if they are worthy of a response.  If there are trends, look for ways to address an overall problem so that a comments clean-up will stay cleaned up.

3. Take action on those comments that are worth removing.  Work directly with the website where comments are posted to respond, remove or identify the individual who posted the comments.

Additional Tips:

  • When posting a response to a bad comment remember to use a positive and constructive tone.  Responding in a hostile tone will only make you look hostile.
  • If you have taken steps to remove a problem that was causing poor comments announce it to your customers on your own website or blog and post it on the website where your business is receiving negative comments, e.g., extended return policy for holiday gifts.  Customers will appreciate that you fixed the problem and that will demonstrate positive goodwill about your business.
  • Encourage your satisfied customers to post comments on sites that review local businesses.  It’s better to proactively show the army of satisfied customers versus the minority of a disgruntled few especially if you are a new business and need a groundswell of initial support.

Don’t let negative comments ruin your business reputation — take charge of your online reputation today and make it the best reflection of your business.