Reputation Management Guide
In today’s increasingly interactive business landscape, staying on top of what people are saying about your company is vital if you want to maintain your good name for any length of time.
Gone are the days where a brand could conjure up an image from thin air and market that perception accordingly. Nowadays, a company’s brand is largely in the hands of the people who frequent that business, which makes reputation management a vital element of any successful organisation.
Hospitality businesses in particularly are especially vulnerable to bad online reviews and ratings from patrons. After all, who want’s to go to a restaurant that has recently been slammed on social media or TripAdvisor? With so much choice available to consumers in most of the major cities across the globe, a couple of bad words from a disgruntled customer can have a huge impact on a business’s bottom line.
So, what can the likes of bars, restaurants, and hotels do to ensure that their online reputation stays intact? Well, following our guide would be a great place to start. Let’s jump straight in.
Get your staff onside
Before we look at anything else, we’re going to emphasise the importance of a bottom up approach to reputation management. Sitting in the boardroom discussing how to keep your image squeaky clean is going to be for nought if your staff are not on board with your wishes too.
As well as the company’s hierarchy, front of house staff should all be aware of the importance of reputation management too. An effective front of house team will be able to deal with any issues as and when they occur, thus disarming the aggrieved customer.
Training staff to cope with such incidences quickly and politely will go a long way to removing the customer’s urge to rant online, and it will often result in a positive review being left instead.
In order to protect your brand long-term, it’s important that you act now. Register your brand name in as many places as you possibly can, especially on social networks such as Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn and Twitter. Even if you do not intend to use them, securing your name will prevent imposter accounts being set up and used against you.
Similarly you should also buy as many domain extensions as you can that are relevant to you and your organisation. For instance, if you are based in the UK and you currently only own the .com address for your business, it would be prudent to look into securing the .co.uk and the shorter .uk extensions too.
There is another thing you can do with domain names, and it’s a fantastic way to win over annoyed customers. Simply buy a bunch of negative uses of your brand name, things such as [insert brand here]isrubbish.co.uk or [insert brand here]sucks.com.
Why on earth would anyone want to do that? Well, if someone types any one of the phrases that you have snapped up into a search engine, they will be presented with a site that you control. This gives you a fantastic opportunity to win them over with a little charm and humour, and possibly defuse a potentially damaging rant against your company. Neat, eh?
Gain trust, and keep it
Reputation management is only worth anything if you have something to protect in the first place. Getting your customer base to trust your brand is the obvious first step to building relationships and gaining respect, but it is easier said than done.
Transparency is key in today’s open business environment, so remove all of the smoke and mirrors and be straight with the people who pay your wages. Customers are savvier now than they have ever been before, so be honest and open in everything that you do.
Actively seek out feedback and establish conversations with your client base wherever possible. Keep on top of any negative comments or criticism, but never hide them. Instead, go out of your way to address the issues that the customer has publicly. Not only will you gain the respect of that individual, you’ll also be showing others that nothing but 100% customer satisfaction is good enough for your brand.
Naturally, preventing bad comments is a far better way of maintaining a company’s reputation than constantly monitoring review sites so that you can put out fires as and when they occur. However, it is an unfortunate truth that no matter how hard you try, bad comments are almost inevitable somewhere down the line. Therefore, constant monitoring is still essential, regardless of how much effort you put into pleasing each and every patron that crosses your business’s threshold.
Monitor, monitor, monitor
Monitoring what people are saying about your business is the key to effective reputation management online. Without constant checks to see what the latest word on the virtual street is, you’re clueless as to how your company is being perceived by those who are searching for it.
Reacting quickly to any negative feedback you may receive shows that you are interested in what people have to say about your brand. Speed is everything in the digital age. Act too slowly and the damage can sometimes be irreparable. This is where so many small to medium sized businesses fall down.
Failing to keep up with what’s being said online can be fatal, so make monitoring part of your daily routine. Thankfully, this is not the chore it once was. Software is now available to help you keep track of what is happening across the Internet, picking up comments wherever they may occur. From Yelp to Facebook, Twitter to TripAdvisor, these tools are a godsend for the busy business owner.
You don’t have to spend a fortune, either. Simply set up some Google Alerts to keep track of your brand name and any other pertinent keywords that you may wish to keep an eye on and you’ll be light-years ahead of manually searching for comments about your business.
However, it’s not all about negative comments. Constant monitoring can have some surprising upsides too. More and more people are turning to sites such as Facebook and Twitter to ask questions about companies products and services. Having an effective monitoring system in place will enable you to intercept these queries and answer them personally, which is a sure-fire way to gain some easy online brownie points.
Own your credibility
Being credible in the eyes of others is another great way to manage your online reputation. Having testimonials, recommendations, and glowing reviews front and centre on your website can help to promote a positive image and give social proof to anyone visiting your pages.
If you haven’t already begun collecting testimonials, you really should do so immediately. Include any positive comments that you can find on social media onto your site too. They all count and, as long as they are genuine, they’ll help to bolster your reputation no end.
Another feature you might like to include is the ability for customers to leave feedback directly on the site itself. This can often help to keep a lot of the comments about your business in one place, making monitoring an even easier task.
Monitoring your presence is great, but accessibility is just as vital if you want to maintain a great online reputation. This means opening up as many channels as possible for people to contact you directly, rather than opting for the more public forums, social networks, and review sites.
Displaying all contact information clearly on your website is the perfect place to start. Include phone numbers and email addresses as standard, but don’t hide them away. Far too often, companies make the mistake of trying to be too clever with their web design and they end up confusing the visitor, which is the last thing you want to do if that visitor already has an axe to grind!
Reacting to negativity
The only way to deal with negativity is with overwhelming positivity. You simply must resist the urge to engage in a slanging match. Take the higher ground and try to be as helpful as you possibly can. As we touched upon earlier, responding quickly is often the key to successfully negotiating a favourable outcome, but keep in mind that politeness and courtesy are also essential components too.
No one like to have bad things said about them or their business, especially when we put so much care and attention into doing the right thing at every turn. However, whether you like it or not, everyone is entitled to their opinion. So, if someone badmouths your business and won’t budge on the matter, there’s very little that you can do to change things.
That being said, the complainant does have to abide by one or two rules to stay on the right side of the law when posting criticism online:
- They must not use defamatory language
- They must not post false information
- Their criticism must not be made with the sole aim of damaging a company’s reputation
But, what does this mean in real life? Can you actually call in the Internet police to come and deal with this dastardly crime? It’s unlikely that that will work, but there are other ways to deal with such events:
Review your SEO strategy
As anyone who has typed their company name into one of the major search engines will tell you, the results that appear are not always the ones in your control. As well as your website, there will be other popular sites that return information about your business too. If any of these are showing false information, you need to act – and quickly. Search is still the king of the Internet, so if there is defamatory information on the first couple of pages returned you will need to address that as soon as possible.
Building a solid SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) strategy will help to promote positive content about your company and brand. The idea is to overtake the negative search results so the first few pages returned show more positive information to anyone who cares to search for your business online. While this may seem extreme, the sway that search results have on a prospective customer can be immense. Failing to act upon poor results can be an expensive mistake to make.
Getting unfair reviews taken down
If a customer has chosen to leave an unfairly negative review on a site such as TripAdvisor, Yelp, or TrustPilot you should make every effort to have that review removed. This does not mean to say that you should try to get every negative review removed. We’re talking solely about the type of review that has no basis of truth, reviews that are clearly posted with the aim of causing damage to your business and its reputation. Genuine negative reviews should always be dealt with publicly and honestly, as we have previously discussed.
Most review sites will have a ‘Report’ button or a customer service team on hand to deal with such malicious use of their site. State your case calmly and politely. If they deem you to have cause for complaint the review will normally be removed immediately, hopefully before too much harm is done.
Bringing in the big guns
This is highly unlikely to happen to the vast majority of small to medium sized businesses, but it’s not completely unheard of, so it needs to be addressed. In the event of a really serious attack on your business (usually instigated by a frustrated competitor rather than an upset customer), you may have to employ the services of a specialist online analyst to find the root cause of the problem.
We must reiterate that this is only in very extreme cases where IPs are hidden and other untraceable attacks are being deployed. However, should they be necessary, this type of cyber investigation can often bring about a swift resolution to intricate reputation management issues.
Taking care of your online reputation is vital if you wish to succeed in today’s digital world. Whether you are just starting out or if you already have a good name to protect, reputation management is be an essential tool to have at your disposal.