Despite the saying that the customer is always right and customer reviews are always welcome, many businesses struggle with how to manage anonymous online reviews. Often, the reviews seem more like harassment than actual feedback.
Thanks to review platforms such as Yelp, Google Reviews, and Angie’s List, customers are now feeling more empowered in their position in the marketplace. However, none truly encourages people to leave reviews using their real names. The only one I can think of at this stage is G2Crowd, where you can’t leave a review or comment without linking your username to your LinkedIn account.
With customer empowerment in mind, businesses need to understand how to turn sour grapes into delectable wine, so to speak.
Be Serious from the Start
It only takes five reviews to get a Google star rating. This means five displeased early customers can set the tone for your online reputation. What you can do to counteract that possibility is show professionalism and dedication from the very beginning.
In the early stage, focus not necessarily on the money side, but on the personal side, the “human-to-human” factor. Your “pioneer” customers will generate a chain of events with their testimonials and attract early adopters and regulars.
Handle Negative Reviews with Style
Sometimes customers just get angry and take their anger too far by posting negative reviews everywhere. First off, differentiate between a customer who was let down by your services and a customer who is basically a bully and who might be paid by competition to mess up your online reputation.
Keep in mind that customers who are displeased by your services will usually leave one negative review on the platform they regularly use. This platform could be Facebook, Google Places, or any other.
Legitimately angered customers will explain what happened and why they didn’t like it. An online bully or someone paid by competition to mess up your reputation will leave negative reviews on every single channel.
Patterns of an online bully include using the same text and copying/pasting without providing details or requesting an explanation. Online bullies might leave negative or 1-star reviews without any text at all and use fake email addresses or fake names. They also might leave comments under a fairly new user account, multiple user accounts, and so on.
Unfortunately, online harassment of individuals has limited legal protection, meaning even less for the protection of a business’s online reputation. However, in some countries, you can sue harassers for liability if you have proof (i.e., IP address, real name, or line of business).
What you can do otherwise is:
- Publicly admit your faults on your personal (or company) blog and on your most popular social media platforms.
- Respond to every review and all feedback, whether it is negative or positive.
- Own your mistakes and never try to “buy” your way into the hearts of your customers.
- Seek your customers’ help by asking for details and their opinions. Ask what solutions they would apply in your place and what they think would help to create a more pleasant experience.
Provide Customers Confidence, Not Just Data Protection
When it comes to online businesses, data protection should be a top priority. Think about how much a data breach can affect customer trust and loyalty.
Dropbox is one example of how things can go sideways when data protection isn’t a main priority. Luckily, the company is recovering fast with the help of collaborative tools and environments where Dropbox is an add-on or a complementary option.
What do legal experts say about data protection? Business law experts at Steinepreis Paganin suggest researching ways to ensure the protection of customer information for online activities whenever your company is concerned.
Ideally, have an impressum on your social media channels and web properties to notify your customers and community that you’re doing the best you can to protect their data. Explain why you’re collecting data in the first place. Being open and honest about why you are willing help your customers trust your brand more.
Act Online As You Would in Person
The hardest part of maintaining a positive online reputation is keeping your own cool. In short, don’t get mad, get smarter. Acknowledging the reviewer’s experience and attempting to respond to it can mitigate the negative experience.
Sometimes, responding privately to investigate the situation can change a potential loss into a major gain. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Position yourself as an open person who can take negative feedback and transform it into a constructive experience.
And Finally… Set Up Alerts
This one is actually well-known and widely used, in a way. Following mentions of your brand on the Internet is the best way to track your online reputation. G.I. Joe used to say that “knowing is half the battle.”
Make sure you are aware of how people view your business. Being aware means being involved in the reviews and discovering what people are saying. Set up a Google alert or monitor specific hashtags on social media and in your GA account, with a few code adjustments to your website. Doing so will let you know whenever someone mentions your name or your business online.
Finally, understand that you cannot control what people say. However, you can get involved in what they say. Give your customers a chance to know the real you.
Image source: Pixabay
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