I don’t need to tell you how much your online reputation matters. You already know that if you have a service, especially, the first thing that any savvy consumer is going to do is look you up online, and then that one-star Yelp review from 2014 can give you the night sweats. Are people going to know the difference between that one jerk and the rest of your happy customers?
Who decides your reputation?
That depends. If you’re not actively working to get reviews and testimonials from your happy clients and customers, then you’re only going to be left with the angry ones. Pissed-off people are far more motivated to find you online and complain than happy people are. Happy people are more often content to go about their day with their lives improved – there’s no reason for them to seek you out additionally.
The first Best Practice is to always provide a direct link to your company’s profile pages on review sites such as Yelp, Google+, Facebook, YellowPages, etc. You can do this on your website, of course, but also in the signature of your emails and in every bit of correspondence you send out. Don’t make your customers look for you – land them right on your own doorstep.
The second Best Practice (that really only works if you’ve done the first one) is to actively ask them for their feedback. The words “please give me a review” must come out of your mouth when you are engaged with them – this is the single most powerful conversion element for reviews. You thank them for letting you make their lives easier, then you ask them a favor in the form of a review, and they’re much more willing to do it. Will it be every time? Of course not, but it’ll be more than zero – which is what happens when no one gets asked for a review at all.
Making reviews matter
There are three things that really matter with reviews in particular: Volume, Rating, and Timeliness. If you have a lot of reviews, you can weather one or two bad ones and it doesn’t impact you too much. If you do a great job and encourage your happiest customers to give you great reviews, that’s going to show in your rating. The thing that most consumer researchers are really look at, though, is how recent your reviews are: a hundred 4- and 5-star reviews are great, but they don’t matter anymore if the latest on is from 2013.
This is all common sense stuff. You guys already know this, whether you realized you did or not. What really matters – what’s really going to turn someone’s eye – is how you handle and respond to your reviews.
Online reputation is only about 35% what you do and 65% what it looks like you do. You may be the best carpenter on the planet, but if the only person who bothers to find you online and give you a review is a crazy lady with an unrealistic expectation of spatial proportions (“I promise, there is no way to make it bigger on the inside…”), and then she posts everywhere she can about what a bloody hack you are, then you’re not going to seem very awesome. And if you get into a public fight with her and call her out as a crazy person, regardless of whether she is or not, you just put egg on your own face.
There are smarter, better ways to deal with that kind of thing. You’ll hear me talk periodically about how Gratitude is the Currency of Relationships, and that probably goes ten-fold on the internet. Using words like “I’m sorry” instead of “I apologize” reminds the very anonymous and unseen people on the other side of the machines that you are human. Thanking people for their feedback – even when it isn’t useful or even true – presents the image of a real person who is actively interested in what their customers have to say.
I’m not saying that you should lie – absolutely not! – but I am saying that there is always a compassionate way to respond to someone, even if you don’t agree with their assessment of the transaction. “I’m sorry you feel that way,” is a great key phrase to keep in your arsenal, but don’t overuse it. Thank your customers and clients for everything they say, respond as often as you can. If you have a high volume of communication, though, pick about one in five positive messages to reply to, but definitely make time to respond to every negative comment.
Investments are exactly that – investments
Does it take time? You betcha. Is it worth it? Hellzya. Don’t skimp on it.
There are services that can assist you in this endeavor (not all are created equal), or there are processes you can implement to make your workflow just a little bit more smooth. Forbes has a nice breakdown of some elements to consider, for instance, if you want to use an in-house team, but there’s also Outspoken, BirdEye, Reputation.com, and ReputationRhino, to name a few. Whether you get your reviews handled with someone else or you do it yourself, it’s gotta be done.
Hire a trained professional, or get trained by a professional. Look at your competitors’ reviews and reputation. What are people saying about them? Know where and how many and how well you’re rated on every review website out there. Claim every business profile you find. Think about partnering with companies like Yext to make sure that your listings are consistent on every index on the web – but check with one of those online reputation managers first because some of them can get you those Yext benefits either as part of their own package or at a discounted rate.
If you want to know more, or you’d like my help, you know where to get a hold of me.