Posted on August 7, 2016 by
Unlike Joan Jett, who doesn’t give a damn ‘bout her reputation, any astute business owner should pay keen attention to reputation management in order to sustain – and grow – a business in today’s digital age. I mentioned this topic a few months ago after I wrote about my experience speaking on the topic at Congresswoman Jackie Speier’s Small Business 101 seminar. As promised in that post, I will now dig deeper into the topic of reputation management and its significance to business owners.
As online reputations go, perception is reality. As a result, managing one’s reputation by keeping abreast of everything written online about a business – including in forums, on Yelp and other review sites – rates as extremely important. No shortage of opportunities exist for customers, clients and prospects to voice opinions and read reviews – good, bad and ugly.
When and How to Write a Review
Let’s first think about how people determine whether or not to write a review. Take my recent personal experience as an example:
A few months ago, we encountered a bad situation in which I was served a supposed gluten-free meal. Unfortunately, it was instead a very gluten-full meal. I quickly became ill and – needless to say – unhappy. By the end of our experience, the waitress – who had no fault in the mishap – was exceptionally apologetic and we had the manager’s full attention to ensure I was okay. The manager gave us a free meal, I walked to the bank nearby for cash to leave as a tip and I went home satisfied by the solution.
Now, was there a reason to write a bad review? Maybe; however, their handling of the situation was impeccable. We were totally impressed.
Will we return? Probably not; the restaurant now makes me nervous. Bummer too, because their menu appears friendly to my dietary needs.
Did I write a review? No; they made a mistake but handled the aftermath perfectly. They solved my problem and I walked out happy. Still, no review from me, good or bad because, at that point, I wasn’t inclined to keep worrying about it.
So, when and how should people write online assessments of an experience? I believe personal preference dictates when to write a review, or not. In most cases, review writers fall into two camps: horribly underwhelmed and upset or extraordinarily impressed. Given that reviews end up on opposite ends of the satisfaction spectrum, they can either hurt or help a business – something important for everyone to keep in mind, especially in the heat of the moment. If I decided to write a review, either good or bad, here’s the approach I would have used:
When and How to Respond to a Review
Now, let’s consider the flip side, the restaurant’s position. In this situation, regardless of the nature of the resolution, the restaurant could have ended up with a poor online reputation as a result of a negative Yelp (or other) review. Alternatively, since I eventually walked away happy, they could have ended up with a more positive review. Regardless, here’s how I advise clients to handle and respond to reviews from customers or clients in order to properly manage their reputation:
How to Encourage a Positive Review
An entirely different part of reputation management entails encouraging satisfied customers and clients to post positive reviews. Don’t be afraid to ask for a review from a happy customer. Remember an unhappy customer will tell the world. Often, a happy customer tells one or two friends and then moves on. Asking and even handing out a card with links to the various review sites you prefer is a great way to encourage clients to write reviews. In LinkedIn, you can send a recommendation request to a client.
Reputation Management Matters
Proactive online reputation management yields tremendous benefits for businesses, especially when approached in a methodical way and handled in a timely manner. Smart business owners don’t stick their heads in the sand. Read reviews; embrace them; and take action to remedy a negative situation. Sometimes, taking action in a positive way will lead to either a retraction of the bad review or at least an update to show a good outcome. As well, savvy businesses should work diligently to garner supportive online evaluations from satisfied customers and clients.
Have you ever written or received an online review? What lessons did you learn from the experience and how has it shaped your reputation management practice?