For consumers, the Internet has proven to be a valuable tool when it comes to making sound purchases or investments. That’s why online reputation management has become so essential.
These days, you can do your homework and find reviews of pretty much any product or service and, for many perspective buyers, doing his or her homework online before picking up the phone or making a purchase is nowadays imperative.
Businesses subject to the consumer’s two cents, though, may not be so appreciative of this. And occasionally, their attempts to fan the critical or negative flames on their own can make matters worse.
Case in point: a friend of mine is a chef who, despite an impressive CV and years of work and smarts under her belt, had to take work at a small catering company a few years back at the height of the recession. To get a sense of what she was getting into, she perused a few popular sites that specialized in restaurant and food service reviews and came across a range of responses to the outfit that were, as she described it, “all over the map.” Given the economic climate, though, she took the job.
Over the next few months, my friend monitored the websites and noticed something curious: if any reviews posted that expressed even the slightest dissatisfaction with their services, a post would quickly pop up praising the company and including counterpoints to the original, critical post.
Even more curious: the complimentary posts praised the catering company for fictitious work. These hijinks were easily traced to the owner, who was also in charge of sales and whose reputation for being difficult to her clientele and employees proved to be well-founded. The occasional critical posters also weren’t spared an ounce of her wrath, as the posts between the critical client and owner turned into full-on pissing wars on a few occasions — not everyone can successfully handle review management.
Respond to Negative Reviews with Dignity
Whether or not consumer critiques are posted in earnest or with ulterior motives is beside the point to business owners. They’re out there for others to read and consider, and the companies on the receiving end of the critical or negative reviews stand to lose potential business regardless of if the post is sincere or unfounded.
If inclined to respond to a negative review, the best approach is to take the high road.
Gauge which posts are the most logical to address: this is as important as how you will respond. Then address the critical post politely and sympathetically. Offer a sincere apology acknowledging the issue and offer a remedy to resolve the problem and/or offer a discount or other incentive to prompt return business. If the poster responds negatively, then let it go.
This can also reflect well on those considering doing business with your company: smart consumers are aware that not every customer will walk away completely enthralled with your operations, and mature, sympathetic responses on your part can actually make a good impression to readers vetting you out.
Getting Help with Online Reputation Management
While it’s wise for the business owner or manager to do their part in monitoring consumer websites and social media pages and responding to negative as well as positive comments, they can’t be expected to handle it all. Responding to all online reviews can be a daunting task, especially if your company has several locations or branches with their own Yelp or Google+ pages. That’s where Leverage comes to the rescue.
Through our online reputation management platform, we regularly seek out positive reviews of our clients’ products and services and make sure those are placed front and center on a variety of sites. We also identify and manage any negative reviews our clients may receive as soon as they receive them.
By executing this program, we expect our clients’ online rankings to improve, as will the volume of organic traffic and overall ratings. This program, as well as the approach to responding to unsatisfied customers or patrons as described above, is the better path to service-driven companies, including catering and food service operations.
Our chef friend’s tenure with this catering company was short, by the way: the owner may have made a point to write “praise” for her outfit online and defend anyone whose opinion was less than celebratory, but there were other things – notably her employees’ paychecks – that she’d forget to write.