August 21, 2012
Liz published this at 2:00 pm
How Your Business Can Keep a Positive Image
Business owners typically take a lot of pride in the goods and services they offer. Hearing a consumer offer positive feedback, then, is one of the best feelings a business owner can experience. By contrast, negative reviews and customer complaints tend to sting. They tend to hit where it hurts â€”- at the business ownerâ€™s own sense of pride and accomplishment.
Negative Reviews and Customer Complaints
Unfortunately, negative reviews and customer complaints donâ€™t just hurt a business ownerâ€™s pride. They also hurt a business ownerâ€™s sales. Thatâ€™s never been truer than it is today, in the Age of Google, Bing, and â€”- most importantly, perhaps â€”- Yelp.
The Trouble with Online Reviews
Yelp and consumer review sites like it have effectively become the new word of mouth. Study after study finds that consumers turn to these review sites before making big purchases, and that they trust the information they find there. What this means is that online reviews and consumer complaints can prove massively influential over consumer behaviorâ€”good news if your businessâ€™ reviews are excellent across the board, but bad news if they are not.
The trouble here is that no business owner can trust that his or her reviews will always be positive. A negative review or an online complaint can come from any number of sources, so simply ensuring that you offer excellent products and superior services is not enough. A bad review could be planted by a business rival, or even by a disgruntled ex-employee.
These reviews can be disastrous to any businessâ€”but the good news is, there are steps that you, as a business owner, can take to minimize their visibility and negate their effects.
Watch Out for Your Online Reputation
If your company has any kind of an online presence at all, then it has an online reputation. The question you need to answer is simply this: Is your online reputation a positive one or a negative one? If a consumer searches for your brand name, does that consumer find information about how wonderful your company is -â€” or does the consumer find one-star reviews and customer complaints?
Knowing where your business stands is crucial. Thatâ€™s why itâ€™s important to search for your brand name on a regular basis. There are a couple of professional tips that will make this a little more efficient:
- Set up Google and Yahoo alerts, which will let you know when any new online listings appear. This will help ensure that you have up-to-date information delivered directly to your inbox.
- Log out of Google before you search for yourself. Google, after all, offers personalized search results. If it knows that you own the business, it may try to protect your feelings, and hide the negative stuff thatâ€™s out there. Logging out ensures that your data is more objective.
Protect Yourself from Defamation
The next step is to build a strong, defensive wallâ€”enhancing your brand and keeping your company insulated against negative reviews. The underlying concept here is that you cannot stop bad reviews from being written, but you can keep them from being seen. If the first page of Google is filled with positive information about your brand, then the negative stuff will be relegated to page 2 or 3, where it will do little or no damage to your brandâ€™s online reputation.
Protecting yourself starts with registering for exact-match domain names, which will rank well on Google, Yahoo, and Bing. For instance, if your company is called Braverman Industries, make sure that youâ€™re the owner not just of bravermanindustries.com, but also .org and .net. These sites will help you fill out that first page of search results. Signing up for exact-match account names, on Facebook and Twitter and Pinterest, is also helpful.
Merely registering for these accounts is not enough. You also need to be proactive in building your brand, by using these domains and social media accounts to publish positive, brand-enhancing content. The more content youâ€™re able to publish, the better insulated you will be against the threat of damaging online reviews.
Of course, there is no way to absolutely guarantee that negative reviews and customer complaints wonâ€™t happen, or that they wonâ€™t breach your defensive wall. The question, then, is how you, as a business owner, can respond. If the review is a positive one, of course, or even if it offers genuinely constructive feedback, then itâ€™s important to simply be nice, grateful, and prompt with your response.
And when the review is flat-out negative, to the extent of being unreasonable or even defamatory? Donâ€™t respond at all. Any response is only going to serve to lend that review search engine traction, which means more consumers will see it and youâ€™ll have an even tougher time suppressing it. Avoid the response, and simply double down on your efforts at brand enhancement and Google insulation.