Benjamin Franklin once said that it takes many good deeds to build a good reputation, and only one bad one to lose it. The reputation of a company has always been important, but perhaps never so much as today. Living in this Internet age, it is much easier to learn the reputation of companies, not only the ones down the block, but also those halfway around the world. Knowing your company’s reputation is important to your brand but equally important to the bottom line.
Marketing departments have long known that one of the most important tools for getting the word out about their business is through word-of-mouth recommendations. While advertising is about what you say about your company, recommendations focus on what your customers are saying. It is also believed that for every public review about your business, there are many more customers who feel the same way but simply have not taken the time to formally express it.
The Internet makes posting a review simple, and it makes that information easily available to the masses. Studies show that the majority of Americans today go online to research products and companies before moving forward with a purchase or arranging to do business with a company. Because of this, it is important that you pay attention to what your online reputation is, and become proactive in building it.
Encourage Customers, Follow Up
A great way to build your online reputation is to encourage your customers to spread the word and write reviews. There are many places on the Web where customers can write reviews about a company, good or bad. Encouraging all customers to review your company, product or service is one of the best ways to take control of your online reputation. Consider identifying specific places where they can leave reviews, or even provide a list of such sites on the company website or in your online newsletter.
Once people have been encouraged to leave reviews about the company – whether favorable or not, take the time to keep up with those reviews. Setting aside some time each week or bi-weekly to search out and read the reviews can be beneficial, and using that opportunity to respond to reviews can help build a positive online reputation.
As with most situations, there are individuals who have found ways to ‘work’ the review process. There are people that get friends or family members to stack the deck with glowing reviews. There are even companies that pay writers to whip up favorable reviews. As tempting as this may seem, avoid engaging in such behavior. If the word gets out that your reviews are bogus, it is going to be more damaging to your reputation than one or two less-than-perfect evaluations. Besides, consumers can often pick up on the trend, and will learn to discount the reviews outright.
Learning, Moving On
While online reviews can be helpful to a consumer who conducts research, they can also be a valuable feedback tool for the company being reviewed. Rather than immediately discounting the negative comments, be sure to consider the full context and overarching themes of the negative comments. The information may be accurate and valuable in helping to improve the overall customer service experience or in creating a better product with enhanced features.
In the end, when you have taken the negative information into account and made positive changes, future write-ups about the company should be much improved. Today, Benjamin Franklin might well give his quote a second thought and revise it to say “it only takes one bad review to help a company see the error of its ways and make improvements.”
Online company reviews appear on everything from personal blogs to Amazon.com. Setting up a Google alert with your company’s name can help keep you informed of anything new that comes out about your company. Once you have set up an alert, any time your company name is mentioned online and Google picks it up, an e-mail link will be sent to you.
Other good places to check online reviews include:
Maps.Google.com – This is the most important of all review sites since these reviews have a significant impact on your local search results.
What should you do if you come across a review that is false or possibly slanderous to your company? Contact the website directly and explain that it contains false information that could be damaging to your company, then request the site to remove the review and/or allow your company to post a written response to it.