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Reputation Management is NOT About Getting Good Reviews

There’s a misconception that has been permeating across many industries over the past couple of years. It’s the thought that “reputation management” is about getting positive reviews on sites like Yelp, Google+, and Merchant Circle. While that’s a portion of it in theory, the practice of it has turned into a huge monster that is ready to burst… possibly before the end of 2013.


It’s not the fault of the businesses nor is it really the fault of the reputation management firms. It comes down to the review sites themselves that have found themselves in the predicament of needing more reviews to gain relevance while also wanting those reviews to be legitimate. Some, such as Yelp and Google, are taking steps to eliminate the fake reviews, but even then there’s a challenge. It isn’t always easy to tell what’s real and what’s fake.


The bubble that’s going to burst surrounds two components of many reputation management services: automation and filtering. With automation, the same responses are made on dozens, hundreds, or even thousands of reviews. These are the businesses responding to people, but they’re canned and the review sites don’t like that. Google recently removed thousands of these automated replies spread across hundreds of Google+ pages.


The other aspect is much more nefarious. It is called filtering. In it, a company uses a 2-step process for soliciting reviews. In the first email, they ask the customer to take a quick survey about their experience. If the survey comes back positive, they then receive an email asking them to let the world know about their experience on the review sites, often with links to the appropriate ones.


If the first response comes back negative, the second email is much different. It is consoling. It is apologetic. It declares a need for something to be done about it and normally promises that the response is going straight to the top to be handled by the manager or the owner.


At no point in this second situation are the customers told to post a review. This friendly/unfriendly test before soliciting reviews is filtering. It’s frowned upon by most review sites and is a breach of terms of service in some. What’s worse is that if a major publication knew about it, they would certainly come down hard on the parent companies or the individual companies themselves for trying to manipulate their public reputation.


The right way to solicit reviews is through a transparent, single step process. Businesses that take pride in their service and boldly ask for reviews regardless of the perspective of the customer is the only way to get reviews the whitehat way.


That’s not where it ends, though. Getting more reviews is important, but handling the reviews – good and bad – in an appropriate manner is the real juice in reputation management. This isn’t just about getting a higher star-ranking. It’s about being gracious and humble to those that leave a good review and being helpful to those who leave a bad review.


The responses to bad reviews can be more powerful than a positive review. Nobody expects a business to be perfect. They make mistakes. When these mistakes are made, the willingness to listen to the challenges, try to offer solutions, and be sincerely sorry for the bad experience can go a long way towards helping a business improve their chances of getting more business.


In other words, negative reviews can be more helpful than positive ones in many circumstances.


The other component of reputation management that few companies explore is the search engine reputation component. Review sites are almost invisible if they’re not found on search. To see what people will be viewing, do four searches:

  • [Business Name]
  • [Business Name] [City]
  • [Business Name] Reviews
  • [Business Name] Complaints

The results on the first page of the search engine results pages will be what people are seeing. The things that appear on page two are threats or opportunities. The things that appear on page three or beyond are invisible.

The absolute most important part of reputation management is service itself. If you’re getting bad reviews, it’s not a random occurrence. It’s not “those damn internet folks” trying to ruin your business. It’s probably not your competitors or former employees being vindictive.

If you’re getting a lot of bad reviews, you might just want to improve the way you do business with your customers. As strange as it may sound, your reputation management issues may be justified. Fix those first. Everything else is just strategy and technique.

Views: 489

Tags: J.D. Rucker, Reputation, Reputation Management, Reviews


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Comment by J.D. Rucker on October 17, 2013 at 10:17pm

Sorry about not getting involved in this discussion earlier - seems like a lively one! I've been so caught up in product stuff that my activity on ADM and other networks has fallen off dramatically since July, but I'm hoping to get back into it now.

Comment by Alexander Lau on October 17, 2013 at 12:06pm

Uhmmmm, *cough, you keep letting those negative reviews persist online (especially to the random first time buyer) and see what type of return clientele comes your way. Women, especially, look at reviews for the smallest of items. Why in the hell do you think they wouldn't for a car purchase? Especially for what other women have to say...? My wife will not buy a baby stroller without reviewing every possible site on product quality. 

Comment by Mark Dubis on October 17, 2013 at 11:58am

You are right. It's not about getting Good Reviews, It's not even about reviews . . good or bad.

James, nice to see your comments above, as it pretty much describes the dealer friendly solution we built two years ago to help sales professionals stand out in a "me too" industry.

Dealers and OEMs who implement their filtered review programs are missing the point of why consumers really look to reviews.

Customers don't want reviews . . . they want someone they can trust.
They don't want reviews they want . . . READ THE REST OF THE STORY

Mark Dubis

If General Motors dealers using the current review program want to feed us their reviews for greater online SEO and visibility on Carfolks they can contact us for information. This will be a no cost option.

Comment by Alexander Lau on October 17, 2013 at 6:02am

Tom, agreed. There are many angles to reputation and the Internet is Johnny come lately.

Comment by Tom Gorham on October 16, 2013 at 9:28pm

Alexander, I did say that, "managing reputation means managing and creating great customer service and the communication of that publicly in order to create referrals and sales."  I believe you are discussing the communication and marketing of a great reputation.  You can do that without the reality of it, as you say.  But it is a short-term reality in terms of repeat business and advocates that will spread the word.

Comment by Alexander Lau on October 16, 2013 at 6:31am

Tom, yes there's that (internal reality) and ultimately a dealer's conversion numbers, but that's not what the random public sees digitally. Online hype, as you've called it, is reality in a sense. However, reputation itself could be chopped up in so many pieces it's scary.

To be frank, in terms of digital marketing / properties, robots (Googlebot, etc.) could give a flying crap about in-house reality and customer service. Bots care about standards and the ever growing requirement for user-experiences (on-site). Foundation is great, I'm all aboard, but one still must execute on various requirements in order to facilitate the foundation and that includes reputation intelligence and visibility. Ignore both at those at your own peril (dealerships).

We didn't make the rules, we're just playing the game. 

Comment by Tom Gorham on October 15, 2013 at 7:40pm

Alexander, just my opinion, but you seem at odds with JDs assertion that reality must be the basis of online hype.  I understand the value of visibility, but that visibility must have a foundation.  Visibility in itself is a short-term solution and will fall flat in the long-term.  Am I wrong? 

To me, managing reputation means managing and creating great customer service and the communication of that publicly in order to create referrals and sales.  You can create a false image of reputation online (managing reviews) but that is self-defeating if it doesn't match the in-house reality.

Comment by Alexander Lau on October 15, 2013 at 6:56am

Sorry, I went in another direction. :-)

Comment by Alexander Lau on October 15, 2013 at 6:47am

Good article, JD.

I like to call think Reputation Management and Visibility / Brand Analytics fall under Reputation Intelligence.

Yext is an excellent resource for applying Visibility / Brand Analytics processes and WELL worth the money. They'll add or fix up to 172 business listing / review sites (to your point, their research and analysis covers their clients on only the most popular sites).

We've built a system that enables automotive dealers to view their Visibility issues (choose the most popular listing sites (automotive included) and calculate their score based upon each listing unit), but it's a long and drawn out process if you do it yourself.

Thankfully, Yext has partnered with those 172 business listing sites, so it's a very short process for our clients.

*See below:

Comment by Tom Gorham on October 14, 2013 at 5:05pm

Thank you JD.  I've been preaching this forever, it seems. It's not called Review Management for a reason.  Because it's not all about reviews!  It's all about customer service and reviews are just one very visible measurement of that.  If you've somehow managed to get an abundance of good reviews, then you must make sure that the in-house experience matches the online expectations set.  Great article!

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