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Reputation Management: Have You Read the Reviews?

Reputation Management is, and has been, quite the hot topic in business for some time, yet the “proper etiquette” isn’t always clear for most. Now that Yelp is to be among the review forums that allow you to counteract negative reviews, it’s time for a quick brush-up on online review management so that this new development works to your advantage – because mishandling negative feedback can only make it exponentially worse.

To state the obvious, your reviews pages on any and all platforms (e.g. Google, DealerRater, Yelp!, etc.) should be bookmarked in your browser so that you can easily and regularly peruse your reviews for new posts. If a post is, on a 5-star scale, a 4 or above, no need to worry. In fact, if you can identify the writer of the review, it’ll pay off 5 times over to contact that person and offer them a “thank you.” Do not ever do this before someone writes the review of their own will –the FTC can easily see this as a $250,000 fine for fraudulence/tampering of legitimate customer reviews, and to be honest, it’s just not classy. If you’re adhering to the straight and narrow with respect to reputation management, you could end up with some great user-generated content, which is worth its weight in gold. Posting reviews online on behalf of your customers, even with their permission, can result in a reputation-shattering penalty.

If the review is negative, by all means, use the opportunity to respond – but this is where you must tread lightly. No matter what the review says:

  • Before you get defensive, listen. Even if the review is biased, you won’t give yourself a chance to know it if you jump on the defensive at first sentence. That review just might tell you something critical about someone on your staff, leading you to make improvements and counteract the review politely.
  • Be honest and humble – this is notan online fight in the cafeteria. Without finding a patsy to take the blame for you, just politely explain that this was a 1-time exception that won’t happen again. No blame, no victimization, just state your standards for excellence and assure the patron/customer that you will correct the experience (not just the incident, the experience).
  • Always leave assurance that you/your organization is improving all the time. This may sound redundant, but always offer the promise of better experiences ahead – we live in an experiential economy, and it is the customer who has faith in a good transactional experience who will return to you if you live up to your word. Refer to my earlier blog about online trust to see how one dealership was able to achieve over 90% of their customers' online reviews without violating any ethical practices.
  • Be yourself, but in your “Sunday best” – don’t use words that would require NASA security clearance to understand, but do put your best foot forward. Again, it’s all about the experience… just remember that if they can’t understand you, there is no experience at all.

If you’re among the few who still haven’t looked at your online reviews, it’s time to clear half a day to see what people are saying about you on every platform and devise a strategy to manage it with a regular, dedicated schedule. We live in an age wherein even your most elderly customers have done their research online before deciding to give you their business experience; your management of your reviews leaves just as much an impression on those researching you as do the reviews themselves.

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Tags: branding, customer, engine, management, marketing, online, relationship, reputation, reviews, search

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