Reviews are one of the core decision making factors affecting businesses and organisations reputations in today’s digital world. Peer reviews influence how you are thought of and whether a product or service will be bought. So much so that businesses like hotels have been blackmailed by guests threatening to post bad reviews in return for better rooms and services .
Trip Advisor, Yelp, Google and the like have changed the game for travellers and tourism forever by enabling their own user generated content. It doesn’t end there. Comments posted frequently on social media websites such as Twitter and Facebook have huge influence on a business’s reputation.
What was once the comment box at the front desk of any hotel has now become a global review board, accessed 24/7 by anyone with a Smartphone or Internet connection. So remember to keep a good strong password too as even the mighty Burger King learnt when it was recently hacked.
Tweeters were amused to see Burger King’s profile branding had been replaced by McDonald’s logo and a claim that BK had been bought by McDonalds. Further tweets followed,
“We just got sold to McDonald’s! Look for McDonald’s in a hood near you” and “If I catch you at a Wendys, we’re fightin!”. As Burger King was in the middle of a horse meat crisis spanning 12 countries, this little episode on social media made things worse or added a little light relief – depending on how you looked at it.
We’ve seen in the past where reviews posted have had a direct impact on the bottom line of those businesses concerned. It’s difficult now to find a sector of business or indeed any sector which does not have some sort of review based platform – even teachers are reviewed by their students on ‘Rate my Teacher’
Many businesses are running scared – but this should be seen as a challenge and an opportunity, not doom and gloom. Review based websites such as Yelp, Trip Advisor and Yahoo can become a space for your satisfied customers to share their positive experiences with future customers.
“The increasing impact of online content on buying decisions cannot be ignored” says President of Cone, Bill Flieshman, “With 89% of consumers viewing online sources of product and service reviews as trustworthy and four out of 5 changing their minds about a purchase based solely on the negative reviews they read.”
Still – many businesses fear that a negative review could be just around the corner. And that is likely to be true.
If this happens, don’t panic! This can be managed and even used to your advantage. So what can your business or organisation do to keep its online reputation in shape?
Handling a Negative Review
It’s going to happen. A disgruntled customer whose (maybe unrealistic) expectations haven’t been met. And they take it to social media.
It’s important that you verify the source is an actual customer. Does the information they’re providing you with match up? It’s important that you have all the info before responding.
One of the main issues of negative reviews is the breakdown in communication between the customer and the business – much of the time this can be avoided. Expectations need to be managed carefully, particularly when it comes to marketing of products or services within an online environment. Take note of Amy from Amy’s Baking Company’s response to customers which has now become legendary. And though it may be difficult, keep the ranting to a minimum. Take note of Amy’s strategy – then do the opposite.
Keep it factual. Not emotional. If your business has dropped the ball hold your hands up and apologise.
If you’ve done nothing wrong, give a diplomatic explanation. If the customer is becoming irate, try to move it offline. Even if the fault does not lie firmly with the business a carefully worded response working towards a resolution – and taking the conversation off line to a format which is less public, e.g. personal message, email or phone will end the exchange on a positive note online. Result – the customer and the rest of the world get the opportunity to see how well your business looks after them. At worst you’ve shown your business cares.
Search Engines play an important role
One of the first things consumers do when seeking out information on products or services is to take it to Google. The normal process of this is that they Google the business name and see what results appear. 93% of online experiences begin with a search engine. 75% of people never scroll past the first page of search results so any negative results showing early in the search results page can hamper the intent to purchase. Monitoring your reputation by using Google alerts or tools like TalkWalker are invaluable. They will alert you via email any time your business or organisation’s name is mentioned online.
Review Based Sites
When it comes to review based websites, they can’t be avoided. Your audience, whether local or global is in this space so it makes sense to use it. Many customers, particularly those booking hotel rooms will actively gravitate towards Trip Advisor – before even considering parting with their hard earned cash.
The plot thickens though. Time magazine compared reviews at TripAdvisor with those from Expedia: “The big difference with reviews from these sites is that at Expedia, it’s necessary to have stayed in a hotel—and booked it through Expedia for proof—to write a review of it. TripAdvisor reviews are under no such obligation, and as a result, anyone can pen a review of a hotel.”
Make it Easy for Customers to Share Good Reviews
Always ask your current customers for reviews and make it easy for them them to share their thoughts via whichever platforms they currently use – ensure you have Facebook and Twitter links from your website.
Add share buttons, links to review sites and a suggestions option for reviewer’s recommendations to your website.
Encourage your happy customers to tell others – preferably online. Don’t offer an incentive as this is frowned upon by many sites. Instead identify a few key platforms, use the share buttons on your website and the choice is theirs. Ask your customers to post to Google+ if possible and research other review sites that are right for your type of business. Ask them to post there too. One or two great reviews could make a big difference to your bottom line.
Remember also, that the more reviews you get the more chance you’ll get a bad one. This comes with the territory and the numbers and may actually reassure your audience that the good ones are genuine.
Listen and respond to the reviews you already have – good and bad
Customers want to know you care. Nuff said.
Build a strong Reputation
According to Forbes the highest rated most reputable companies are Google and Disney for “trust, admiration, feeling and overall reputation”. Google has built trust on perceptions such as happy employees who are treated well and Disney’s success lies in it’s products for children and the perception of “engaging locally”. Lego, whilst much lower on the financial scale scores highly and is loved not only for taking children back into a three dimensional world in the digital age and encouraging creative play offline, but for it’s nostalgic connection to adults which is hugely promoted. Tapping into emotions is vital and we can learn a lot from the Kings of Reputation.
So… how you handle reviews can make or break your reputation, just like in your personal exchanges offline. So don’t run scared at the thought of customer reviews and user generated content. Raise awareness of how to handle them positively within your organisation. There is no doubt that online reputation is impacting business revenue given that consumers now make their purchase choices based on the experiences others have had.
In today’s business environment, user generated content and its reach can be an ally or enemy when it comes to how successful your business is going to be. Implementing an online reputation plan within your company is key to ensuring that when that disgruntled customer’s review appears the business is equipped to not just handle it but use it to its advantage.