Everything is Online
As soon as a customer identifies a need or decides to start thinking about buying something they want, they go online. Whether they need a haircut, a meal catered, or a new car, they need to be able to find you. Whether or not you choose to have an active presence online, information about your business is already there. With 85% of consumers finding local business information online, reputation management is essential to every business owner.
The New Word of Mouth
Word of mouth has always been a valuable marketing tool and it still is now more than ever. It has just shifted to online reviews. In the past, you could hope your customers would say good things about your business, but if someone had something less than stellar to say it was impossible to clear up any misunderstandings or defend yourself. After all, you didn’t even know where or when these things were being said.
Times have changed. Now customers have greater reach than ever with their opinions and they are eager to use it. Really great experiences or really bad ones will often drive a customer to an online review site to share their thoughts. And they’re not disappearing into a void. People are paying attention.
This chart makes it pretty simple to see that online reviews are playing a part in people’s purchase decisions in a major way. And it doesn’t stop there. Having a good overall rating matters because customers TRUST it. Having a perfect score matters less. Customers tend to be wary of anything too glowing or too negative. But having a rating of four stars or above is important because 94% of consumers will use a business when they see it has a positive rating. On the flip side of that, 86% of consumers will hesitate to purchase from a business that has negative online reviews.
What is Reputation Management?
Imagine you’re on vacation and you’re hungry and you need a place to eat. You might look up Yelp or Google Maps in that moment to find a place nearby. Both of these sites will not only give you basic information about the location but they will also show you a star rating with reviews. For a lot of us, just looking at an overall star rating is enough, but sometimes we want a little more detail…especially if we are trying to decide between different places.
In our imaginary scenario, you’ve been on the beach all day. You’re hungry, tired, and craving a quick but delicious meal. You’re trying to decide between John’s Tacos and Shelley’s Burritos. Both locations have a great star rating and they are an equal distance from you. So to make your decision, you decide to read some reviews. Here’s what you see:
4 ½ stars, 345 Reviews
Pete wrote:I had a terrible time at this place. The server was really slow and not very friendly. The food wasn’t very hot and that ruined my enjoyment of the meal.
4 ½ Stars, 358 Reviews
Winnie wrote: Awful experience. I had heard such great things about this place, but when I finally got a chance to go the service was slow and the food was cold by the time I got it. I was really disappointed because I had been looking forward to coming here for a long time.
Shelley’s Burritos responded: Hi Winnie,
We’re so sorry to hear about what happened when you visited us recently. Our customers should be able to expect quick service and hot food at Shelley’s Burritos, so it’s unacceptable to us that you didn’t. I’d really love to be able to chat with you about your experience and try to win your business back! Give me a call if you have a second.
Which place would you be more likely to go to? You can see from reading these reviews that both customers had a similar experience at the restaurants. But only one business owner took the time to publicly address the concerns of the reviewer. She was able to share the values of her restaurant and offer Winnie a sincere apology for failing to meet those values when she visited. You can see that Shelley’s Burritos cares about their customers and cares about what is being said online about them. You almost feel like the decision about where to eat based on these reviews has already been made for you. And the surprising thing is it’s not so much the reviews as the response that has mattered. And that’s what we mean by reputation management.
Who Needs Reputation Management?
With 84% of consumers trusting an online review as much as a personal recommendation, the answer is everyone. If you’ve been avoiding the thought of looking at your company’s Yelp reviews, it can seem overwhelming to start to think about doing something to really address them. There’s far more risk in continuing to avoid them, however, and you could be losing out on valuable customers by doing so. While every business should be managing their online reputation, some businesses especially have a real opportunity to embrace reputation management to stand out in their marketplace. Customers are often more careful when choosing a health provider or making an expensive decision like purchasing a vehicle. Having a good reputation online will give you a chance to win customers trust.
Get Started with Reputation Management
Once you decide you can no longer let your online reputation fend for itself you’re on the right path to building a better first impression of your business for many customers. The next step is to find where the reviews are hosted
Where are the Reviews?
While different industries will have different sites that are a priority, there are two major review sites where you will need to make sure you have a presence. Yelp and Google Reviews are the places you want to start. As of March 31, 2017, 127 million reviews have been posted to Yelp. That’s a lot of reviews. The good news for business owners is that the majority of them are positive. But you will still find that Yelp users are advising against using businesses 23% of the time. So you can’t really afford to let Yelp reviews slip through the cracks.
The other site you are going to want to monitor is Google Maps. Anytime someone looks something up in Google Maps and clicks on your business, they are going to see your aggregate star rating and quite likely the reviews themselves. With over a billion users, Google is a site to be taken seriously.
Keep in mind that it may take a minimum of two reviews on Google for any sort of aggregate star rating to appear. So if you’re just starting out, don’t be discouraged.
Let’s say you check out these sites and discover there are negative reviews right at the top! It might be tempting to call all your friends and ask them to leave a review or even create an account to leave a positive review yourself. DO NOT DO THIS. All the major review sites have methods of determining if reviews are authentic and they will flag any suspicious looking reviews. You don’t want to put your account and genuine reviews in jeopardy, so put in the work to manage your reputation and trust the good work your business does.
Before you get started, you will need the following information handy:
- An email address
- A chosen password
- A picture of yourself (the business owner)
- Your business website
- Hours of operation
- Business Hours
- Phone number
When you decide to get started with Yelp make sure you are near your business phone.
Navigate to Yelp for Business. This page will allow you to search for your business by name and address. Yelp will return several options for you. Your business listing should be among them. At this stage, you will “claim my business” and Yelp will prompt you to create an account for Yelp for Business. After entering in the key information to create an account, Yelp will likely tell you that they want to verify you are the business owner by calling the number on the business profile. During this phone call they will give a four digit code that you will enter on your screen to verify your business.
Before you can respond to reviews, Yelp will also require you to upload a profile photo of yourself to ensure your interactions with customers are personable. So make sure you have a high quality friendly looking photo of your face to upload. Yelp does review these so you can’t cheat by uploading a building photo or a smiley face.
If you can’t find your business, you can choose the option to add your business to Yelp. In this case, you will need to fill out more information such as the address, website, business categories, and hours.
If you already have a Google My Business account, then you’re in great shape for Google. If you don’t, however, now is the time! According to Google, businesses who have verified their Google My Business account are twice as likely to be considered reputable by customers. So there is really no reason to delay this any longer.
To get started on Google My Business, you will first to need to claim your business. Once you have done this, Google will want to verify you are the best person to manage Google My Business for your business. They have a few different methods of verification with the most common being mailing a postcard to your address with a unique code you will need to enter upon receipt. Don’t edit your Google My Business listing while you are waiting for the postcard to arrive. It can take up to two weeks so it’s important to be patient. When you begin the process of verifying they may give you the option to verify by phone. If they do, take it because it will be much quicker.
For more information, check out Google’s full support guide.
There are other review sites that may be relevant and crucial for your business as well. Car dealerships will want to check out DealerRater or Cars.com. Restaurants will need to stay on top of Zomato and Trip Advisor. Hotels can’t forget about Hotels.com.
Respond to Both Positive and Negative Reviews
Your next step is to start monitoring and responding to reviews. Of course you shouldn’t just go into this head first without planning! There are a few important things to keep in mind.
It is going to feel really tempting to only respond to reviews that are negative because you will be feeling the pressure to resolve them. It’s important to respond to positive reviews as well, though. A lot of opportunity exists to extend your relationship with happy customers through positive reviews and to educate them about your other services and products and any promotions you might have coming up in the future. Both positive and negative reviews should be responded to in a timely fashion.
It can feel intimidating to respond to a negative review at first. You will probably feel defensive about the things being said about your business. But there’s no room for that in online reputation management. Before responding to any reviews, take a deep breath. Try to let go of any anger you feel. Vent a little to yourself if you have to. And then put yourself in the customer’s shoes. Think about why the experience was so upsetting to them they felt they had to go online and share their thoughts. Be sincerely apologetic! Offer to help fix the situation.
If the customer had a great experience, don’t forget to thank them! It takes time to leave feedback so be appreciative. Answer any additional questions they might have about your business. Avoid offering them a freebie as that can seem like bribery.
Don’t Be Shy–Ask for Reviews
Having current reviews is important. Customers like to know about recent experiences as they understand that employees and management can change. Customers, however, are twice as motivated to leave a review after a negative experience than after a positive one. So it’s important to be proactive in asking your customers to leave reviews. Here are some tips to keep in mind when you are seeking reviews:
- Do not offer any bribes as to the content of the review. While you can encourage reviews with a discount or small free item, you don’t want to influence the customer’s honest opinion in any way.
- Encourage them to leave a review on any site they feel comfortable. While you may be targeting specific sites for review, it’s most important that you get the reviews.
- If you only have a small number of existing reviews make sure you ask customers you are fairly confident will leave you positive feedback.
- Make it easy for customers to leave reviews by providing direct links to your profiles on the major sites.
Don’t Forget to Monitor Social Media
While online review sites are incredibly important, you can’t ignore social media. Customers are also taking to Twitter and Facebook to share their thoughts about your company. If you have a Twitter account, and you should, you need to monitor this. A lot of customers are savvy enough that they will “tag you” or mention your handle in their tweet. This will show up in your notifications and as long as you are consistent in checking Twitter you will see it. But some customers might not be able to find your Twitter handle or might not bother. You will have to use Twitter search at times to find out what else is being said about you.
On Facebook, your customers are likely to leave comments directly on your page. They can also leave reviews there so you need to keep on top of this. You don’t have to set up any special account so long as you already have a Facebook Business Page. You do need to keep in mind all of the other principles we’ve already discussed when it comes to responding to reviews, though. Stay positive, be sincere, and work to remedy any negative customer experience.
Think Creative Solutions for Reputation Management
Are you overwhelmed by all that must be done? It’s understandable. You recognize the need for online reputation management, but you already have your plate full in your day to day operations. Think Creative has some great solutions to help you take charge of your online reputation. We take out a lot of the guesswork in finding reviews and put everything in one place. We can also help you monitor social media and your online business listings to make sure everything is accurate and you are best positioned to win new customers. You don’t have to do this alone. Let us help you succeed at managing your online reputation. Contact us today!