As a business owner in this day and age, you are likely no stranger to the concept of online reviews. The ability to view constant, updated feedback on the products or services your business offers – including the ease of access your website provides your users – is a great way to gain insight into what you’re doing best. In addition, it helps identify potential areas that need improvement. However, reading a scathing customer review – whether founded or unfounded – can leave business owners second guessing themselves and wishing there was some way to prevent customers from leaving negative reviews.
Should you respond to or remove negative reviews? How can you prevent further reputation issues? Do less-than-stellar reviews affect your business or brand?
Here’s how online reputation management can help you become well-versed in online reviews and know what to do about them to maintain a positive online reputation, for years to come.
Do Consumers Really Read Reviews?
Before we begin to discuss how reviews affect your business, it’s important to point out that the mere ability to leave a review can have a positive impact on your reputation. In fact, according to Forbes, as many as 97 percent of people who find businesses nearby do so while online, A good deal of those (75 percent) say that they wind up patronizing a business they found to be thoroughly-reviewed online.
How can the nature of the reviews your customers leave impact future consumer decisions? Whether your reviews are positive or negative, Nielsen’s most recent Global Trust in Advertising Survey found that 66 percent of people trust the opinions of others who have chosen to rate a business online.
Even more impressive, multiple studies suggest that a similar number of people trust online ratings as much as or more than an ex-significant other’s opinion. Simply put, most people are reading your business’s online reviews, and the majority of them trust the anonymous reviewers enough to base some of their decision making on what they’ve read online.
How Do Reviews Affect Your Brand?
How much sway do online reviews have? Enough that the majority of people – 57 percent, according to Brightlocal – will only purchase a product or use a service that has four or more stars. A majority of positive reviews, or at least a positive average of at least four stars, is important for drawing in customers looking for excellent ratings.
Similarly, negative reviews can have a lasting impact on your bottom line. The same Forbes report states that even one negative review can cost you as much as 22 percent of all business revenue. The number balloons to over 55 percent when three or more negative reviews appear on the first page of your business’s reviews.
How Can You Address Online Reviews?+
While positive reviews can do your business’s reputation a great deal of good, the helpful effects can only keep rolling in once you know about your positive reviews. In the same way, you can only begin to address the circumstances that led to a negative review – and attempt to reconcile with the consumer – if you are aware of the review. It’s a classic scenario we like to call, “What you don’t know CAN hurt you.”
If you’ve crafted a high-quality website for your business, chances are, some of your very best reviews appear right there on your homepage. However, as the internet continues to expand, so does the ever-increasing list of consumer product and service rating pages, most of which you are not able to control directly. Dependent on the nature of your business, you may garner customer reviews on many or all of these sites:
- Google My Business
- Angie’s List
- Consumer Reports
- Better Business Bureau
- Yahoo! Local Listings
Certainly, it is important to respond in some way to all reviews, whether that response be sharing a positive review so your potential customers can see it or reaching out to a customer who left a negative review in the hopes of retaining lost business. However, since this is not an exhaustive list, how do you begin the process of finding and reacting to the reviews your company garners?
Performing a brand reputation audit is an excellent way of rounding up your feedback so you can determine next steps.
What Is a Brand Reputation Audit, and Should Every Business Get One?
At its primary level, a brand reputation audit involves a professional, deep scan of the internet for each and every mention of your business. Once the data is in, experts analyze the reviews and each listing of your certifications and accreditations to ensure that the information reflected is up to date and accurate. This data provides an extensive overview of your business’s online reputation.
Every business should perform a brand reputation audit to build a comprehensive picture of how current and potential consumers view your business, individual products or services, and even your personnel.
Once you have a handle on your brand’s current reputation, the information enables you to develop strategies to address and promote the positive aspects found. On the flip side, it also helps you formulate a plan for dealing with any negatives or missing information. Further, a brand reputation audit is a first step toward longer-term solutions that strengthen your business’s reputation through ongoing and consistent online reputation management.
What Is Online Reputation Management?
We’ve already established the importance of customer reviews and the best way to go about locating them. Now what? It’s time to address the reviews and other mentions of your business.
By highlighting the positives and retaining potential losses by dealing with the negatives, this provides the highest chances of keeping your current customers. Keeping firm control of your business’s reputation is referred to as online reputation management.
Benefits of Maintaining Social Control
ORM is a great way to highlight the very best reactions your consumers have to your product or service. Earlier, we mentioned the extremely high numbers of potential patrons who choose to only use companies with four or more stars on a given rating platform. In addition to your overall rating, showcasing some of your most brilliant, concise, positive comments in a prominent location can go a long way towards influencing consumers still on the fence.
ORM takes this strategy a step further and helps you structure your interactions with customers in a way that encourages them to leave reviews.
What about Negative Reviews?
When a brand reputation audit reveals negative reviews lurking amongst the positive, the common, knee-jerk reaction is to remove them. However, sanitizing your brand’s reputation may do you more harm than good; there isn’t a business in existence that has a perfect, five-star, customer satisfaction rating, and consumers know it. For this reason, a professional response to helpful critical reviews can reassure your potential customers that your brand is trustworthy in a few important ways.
- You are actively looking for feedback and receptive of both praise and criticism
- You’re invested in how satisfied your customers are
- You want to take action to rectify any negative experiences
- A variety of reviews is substantial proof that your brand is real and not a scam
- You are transparent and open to helpful criticism
In fact, a recent survey showed that 68 percent of people found online reviews more trustworthy when both positive and negative reviews were included.
Think ORM First
How should you respond to those negative reviews? First, it is important to build an overall ORM strategy that gets you thinking before every action you take online. ORM helps you remember that while every negative review is visible to the public, so is your response. Never respond without first taking a moment to cool off and review your business’s unique ORM strategy.
Then, respond to the review while remaining mindful of your ultimate goal – to resolve the issue quickly; a response lamenting the customer’s poor experience does neither you nor the customer any good.
Conversely, a response resolving the issue actually increases the chances the customer will do business with you again. Depending on your business, resolution may include:
- Inviting the customer to your location
- Providing an answer you or an associate may have missed
- Locating shipment information
After you’ve crafted your response, it’s a good idea to consult with an ORM professional regarding its potential outcomes. Explore the potential positive and negative outcomes of the response, particularly regarding your long-term plans for future reputation management.
At the very least, get another person’s opinion on what you’ve composed. Finally, if the customer responds and continues to raise an issue, invite them to discuss the matter privately – a maximum of two public responses is a good rule of thumb.
How ORM Boosts Your Business’s Reputation
Managing your business’s online reputation is not a quick fix, but it is an issue you can – and should – take swift action regarding. Moving your business in the right direction by gaining an overview of your brand’s current reputation via a brand reputation audit is an important first step. It’s also the price of doing business in today’s digital age. Think of it as both reputation management and marketing.
Online reputation management strategies can address what’s already out there on multiple review platforms, while building a strategy for improvement moving forward. If you’re ready for more control over your brand’s reputation, Eminent SEO can help. Together, we can visualize your social strategies for tomorrow by reshaping what you’re doing today, by optimizing your ORM.