By Mark Claypool
You’ve worked hard to earn your business’ good name and the reputation you’ve built in your community. Word of mouth is one of your greatest referral sources. Whether you’ve been in business for months, years or decades, your reputation hangs in the balance. One scathing online review and your sterling reputation could be tarnished at best, severely corroded or destroyed at worst. The time for online reputation management is here. In fact, it’s rather late if you aren’t doing it already.
What Is Reputation Management?
Reputation management is monitoring your business’ online reputation, properly dealing with content that’s damaging to it, and promoting your good or great reputation and getting work from it.
There are many different consumer review sources out there, including:
Google is the biggest. Facebook gets the most daily traffic, but only a small portion is reviews. Yelp is pretty big, too, as are the rest. One bad review that will stay online virtually forever can reach hundreds, even thousands of people. How you handle it will make it better…or worse.
I See Crazy People
I say (tongue in cheek) that roughly 2 percent of the public probably should be institutionalized. You know who they are people who cannot be satisfied, no matter what. They yell, scream, curse and ruin your day. A rational thought hasn’t traveled through their brains in this century. And … they’ve got access to the Internet and have learned how to make your life miserable there, too. Don’t these people have a life?
But these nut jobs aren’t the only ones who leave bad reviews. Other people may have a legitimate beef with you. We’re not perfect; sometimes things go wrong. On a rare occasion, a disgruntled former employee, ex-spouse or competitor posts something. So what do we do with any of these? We respond.
How to Respond
You need to respond to both good and bad reviews. First, you need to claim all your free business listings on these sites. To see how your business is listed, visit: https://www.yext.com/partner/optimaworldwide/diagnostic.html.
Next, look at all past reviews and respond. For good reviews, thank them and use language like, “We’ve been satisfying customers just like you for X years” or “Our customer satisfaction rate is consistently 98 percent.” Mix it up; don’t say the same thing on each and every one of them. And keep in mind that it’s very important to praise your team! They earned the good review!
As for bad reviews, try to assess whether the complaint was legitimate or not. Legitimate negative reviews provide you with an opportunity to get insight into potential internal problems that should be addressed. Consider them early warning signs!
Your online response needs to be done in a professional, non-defensive way. Own up to mistakes, explain what you’re doing to make things right, then conclude with the same things suggested for responding to positive reviews such as, “Our reputation is important to us, 98 percent of our customers say they are ‘very satisfied’ with our work and recommend us to their family and friends.”
For reviews that are not legitimate, you can respond like this: “We haven’t repaired a Bentley Continental in our shop, but we certainly could. Perhaps you meant to leave this review for some other shop? We’ve been delighting our customers since 1987!” Or, “We don’t recognize the name on this review, and your description doesn’t match anything we’ve done. We would be happy to take a look at your vehicle. Just bring it in and see why 98 percent of our customers are so happy with our work.” Rarely will you be able to get bad reviews removed, and to do so nearly takes an act of Congress.
Check out this real-world example of a bad way to respond to a customer complaint:
Unhappy Customer: Horrible customer service. Doesn’t warranty their work. Bob has very nasty demeanor with longtime customers. I wouldn’t recommend this company any longer. Attorney general will be alerted about their business practices.
Response from owner: Sometimes a job takes longer than originally estimated. It’s clear that you do not understand what we had to do to fix your car and were so angry that you wouldn’t even listen when we tried to explain the situation to you. We are the experts. Just because it didn’t go as planned doesn’t mean you can complain on the Internet.
This isn’t exactly what we had in mind when we suggested you respond. This angry shop owner did more to damage his reputation than if he had just left it alone. How could he have responded better? First of all, he should have taken a breath, counted to 10 and gone to his happy place. Then, he should have thought through how a professional business should respond:
“We appreciate your input. We’ve been in business since 1981, and our long-term customers are our best referral source. We consistently earn high marks for our service. I’m sorry we didn’t ‘wow’ you with our usual service this time. Please come in to see us so we can address your concerns. Thank you.”
Monitoring Reviews For Free
With so many sites out there, how can you easily monitor your reviews? Google Alerts (www.google.com/alerts) can notify you every time your brand is mentioned. For Twitter, try TweetBeep (www.tweetbeep.com).
There’s also something out there called, “The Rip Off Report.” If your shop is ever unfortunate enough to get slammed on this report, there’s not much you can do about it but respond. Postings on this report can be particularly nasty.
Your good reputation deserves some of your time to monitor and manage it. You’ve worked too hard to let things just happen without paying attention to it. Do it!
Mark Claypool has more than 30 years of experience in the fields of workforce development, business/education partnerships, apprenticeships and Web presence management. He is the CEO of Optima Automotive (www.optimaautomotive.com), which provides website design, development, search engine optimization (SEO) services and social media management services. Claypool’s work history includes stints at Metro Paint Supplies, VeriFacts Automotive, the National Auto Body Council (NABC), the I-CAR Education Foundation and SkillsUSA.