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Reputation Management is More than Just an Email

Online reputation has been a hot topic for a couple of years now. As solutions continue to emerge and the business of reputation management as a service expands, there's a dangerous trend that should be addressed.

Reputation management isn't about sending an email. It's not about filtering results by checking their sentiment first before directing them to the review sites. It's not even about trying to identify any challenges that they had with their experience. It's about making their experience strong from the start and learning from the challenges some customers pointed out.

First and foremost, stop blaming the customer. If they leave a bad review, it's not because they were just trolling. It's not because they get a kick out of burning businesses on Yelp, Google Local, or DealerRater. It's not even about them thinking they should have received a better deal than they got even if you gave it away. They were unhappy with the experience and there was something you could have done differently to prevent them from leaving a bad review. Learn from it.

Once you get the customer-is-to-blame mentality out of your head, it's time to figure out how to collect and address the feedback. Yes, emails help here. They're not the cure, but they're a good thermometer. While there are plenty of filtering services out there that send a "survey" first before asking for feedback, these are dangerous and will someday be shot down as the devious technique that they are.

In case you're not familiar with them, here's how they work:

  1. Customer receives a survey in their email asking about their experience
  2. Their replies are collected by the reputation management system and sorted between positive and negative sentiment
  3. If the sentiment was positive, they are sent an email asking them to share their experience on review sites like Yelp
  4. If the sentiment is negative, they're sent an apology email with a link to give direct feedback to the owner or general manager

This all seems like a good process until you realize that the review sites don't like this. They rightfully believe that it's manipulation of reviews and it's one of the primary culprits in their war on "fake" reviews. According to Yelp:

"No, you shouldn’t ask your customers to post reviews on Yelp. For one thing, most businesses tend to ask their happiest customers to write reviews, not the unhappy ones."

They are correct and it's the main reason that so many businesses work hard (or pay good money) only to find that their Yelp reviews disappeared. It's simply not a good practice to find out whether or not your customers are going to burn you before asking them to write a review for you.

The most important thing that any business can do to improve their reputation is to accept the feedback, positive or negative, and apply a two-step process. First, share the feedback with employees. If it's good, let them know as much about the situation as possible and why it turned into a positive review. If it's bad, do the same thing but offer suggestions that could have prevented the negative feedback from happening. This is important whether the feedback comes directly to the company or if it's posted online.

Second, you'll want to reply to reviews. Every review. EVERY review. Positive, negative, indifferent - if someone takes the time to give you feedback about your business whether it's on a public site or directly to you, it is your responsibility to reply. If it's positive, humility and appreciation are in order. They're your customers - the lifeblood of your business. If it's negative, professionalism and empathy must apply. Remember, how you reply to negative feedback is often the most important aspect of reputation management. People don't expect any business to be perfect. You can go a long way towards impressing people with how you handle the bad situations as much if not more than the benefits of getting good reviews.

Reputation isn't a star rating. Reputation management isn't an email. In this golden age of digital, you have at your fingertips the ability to learn how to improve your business practices from the very people that do business with you. Are you listening to them?

Article originally posted on Business2Community.

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