While review websites are a well established presence on the Internet, they continue to grow as both a problem and an opportunity for brands, businesses and organisations of all sizes. Service providers, retailers, political organisations and even charities need to keep a close eye on the conversations people are having about them on third party websites and apps.
Why the Internet presents a challenge
The Internet is a significant challenge when it comes to negative feedback for a number of reasons including:
- It is easy for competitors to post fake comments or complaints to discredit your organisation.
- When someone feels the need to complain they are often highly enthusiastic in their want to vent.
- Negative, even unfair or fake feedback, is very difficult to get removed.
- It is very likely that comments are going to be permanent, maybe even found by search engines.
- Unfortunately the world has unreasonable people and the Internet is an ideal outlet for them.
- It can take significant time and human resources to deal with comments on sites owned by other people.
- If search engines find negative feedback it may be indexed in search results that include your brand name.
No doubt you can add to this list. Oh and by ‘Internet’ I refer to both websites and apps. Apps are a very important medium when it comes to customer feedback since they are the most portable platforms that access internet based information.
Dealing with negative comments or reviews
So how should we handle online reputation management? Here are a few ideas to get you thinking:
Great customer support
Because of the pervasive and semi-permanent nature of the various commenting and review systems, it is clear that it would be easier just to avoid problems in the first place. How? Start with excellent communication and customer support. Look at a bunch of review websites and you will see many of the complaints stem from poor communication.
The key to good customer support is to fix any problems in a timely manner with a positive and upbeat attitude in any communications with your customers or clients.
Ideally you should dedicate some time each day to responding to comments about your organisation or brand. Depending on your industry you will find the various outlets people use to rate and discuss your organisation. Make a daily check-in with the key websites at the very least.
Remember, your social media accounts or company blog are not the only places people will go to publicise their dissatisfaction.
Respond to comments where you find them
When you find comments about your brand, respond to them with positivity. Show some empathy if appropriate. Let them know you are listening and dedicated to helping solve their problems.
Negative comments actually provide you with a fantastic opportunity to demonstrate your ability and willingness to respond to customer needs or concerns. When done well, even third parties will see that you have gone above and beyond to address the issue head on.
If you feel that some comments about you are fake, seeded by competitors or just overly negative then you can try contacting the website owner, but don’t expect too much from their response. Most times they will ignore your request for removal. Your best bet is to register with the site or app and address the comments with an official response. Use your logo as the avatar for your commenting accounts and try to pick a username that is close or identical to your brand name.
Address search engine results
If you have never looked at what people may be saying about you online start with a Google search on your brand or organisation’s name. The worst case scenario happens when the first page of search results include a website that has reviews than are negative towards you. These need to be addressed quickly since the star rating system is highly conspicuous.
The following is what appears in Google search results for a business I searched for:
This is not a great rating and reflects poorly on the business in question. The fact that this is seen directly within Google search results puts doubt in your brand before people reach the official company website.
By having a plan for online reputation management you gain insight into customer sentiment towards your brand, while also keeping your finger on the pulse of how your marketing communications are being received. It is far better to deal with any negativity sooner rather than later, before any momentum builds against you.
By monitoring conversations about your brand, products or services you gain valuable insight into your strengths, that you can exploit, end the weaknesses that you must correct.