It’s one thing to insure your business against the normal loss and risk that can happen to pretty much any organization anywhere, but how do you protect your business against rumors, defamation, and bad press? Bad news travels instantaneously in the digital age, so it’s important to understand how you manage your business reputation—off line and online.
Who is your reputation manager? If you haven’t thought about it, you’re already in trouble. For starters, you need to designate leaders in your company to monitor your reputation. Then, develop a reputation management action plan.
According to a survey by the Opinion Research Corporation, 84% of Americans say online reviews influence their purchasing decisions. But that in that same survey, only 28% of the respondents said they had posted their comments online. What does that mean? It means that a small minority is shaping the opinion of the majority. And that can be detrimental to your business.
So what to do? Find out what is being said about your business online. Do a vanity search of your company name and see what comes up. What’s your first impression about the results? Pay particular attention to references in blogs and online forums. There are dozens of local review websites springing up that cater to customer comments about businesses and service providers. Some of the more established are Yelp, Cityserach, OpenTable and Yahoo! Local. Check them out and see what’s being said about your business.
Monitoring is important, but that’s only part of your reputation management program. How do you respond to any negative comments you may find? While you don’t need to respond to all the reviews, the negative ones need your careful attention. You can post a public apology, or you can send a private message to a negative comment poster, too. Never argue with a reviewer. You’re not going to win and you may start an online combat zone that is going to further damage your reputation. Better to acknowledge and make amends.
One instance, quoted in the N.Y. Times article Managing an Online Reputation, tells of a “rude” sales person encounter at a cheese and wine store. When the owner followed up, he discovered the customer had dealt with an employee who was hard of hearing. After sending along an explanation and an apology, the “complainer” became a loyal customer and joined the wine club.
Other good things can come from monitoring your reviews as well. Pay attention to what is being said. Do poor service complaints show up frequently? Take a look at your customer service program. Maybe it does need your attention. And how about those compliments? Look them over as well. Maybe they are differentiators your marketing team can capitalize on to make you stand out from the competition!
Freedom Insurance cares about your business. Have an interesting online review story to share? Write a comment below. We’d love to hear from you!