Think your brick and mortar store exists only offline? Chances are you’re wrong. And a bad online reputation can affect your business's bottom line. Follow these techniques to more effectively manage your online reputation.
Figure out which social media networks, blogs, etc. your customers frequent and make sure you have active accounts in those channels. Nearly 40% of businesses haven’t claimed their listing on OpenTable, Yelp, Angie’s List, Google Places for Business, etc. At minimum, your company should have Twitter, Facebook and Google+ accounts. Knowledge of your customers and your type of business will determine which platforms you should add. If your product is visual, take advantage of Instagram and Pinterest. B2B, high-tech and/or professional businesses might benefit from creating both company and employee pages on LinkedIn. Still not convinced? Small Businesses with free Yelp for business accounts see an average of $8,000 in annual revenue from the site. Comparing products and businesses online is becoming the protocol for any purchase. Today’s customers are relying less on advertising and more on search results. Without a solid online presence your business isn’t even in the running.
A checklist of profiles to maintain: Google+ Local, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, Flickr, Youtube, Vimeo, Angie’s list, Yelp, Yahoo Local, Citysearch, Insider Pages, LinkedIn, TripAdvisor, Urbanspoon, OpenTable.
Listen to what people are saying for brand sentiment on social channels. About 80 percent of companies think they’re crushing it at customer service, but only 8 percent of paying customers agree. This disparity shouldn’t happen if you’re using social media correctly. If you are paying attention to what customers are saying online, you’ll be aware of trends and consequently better able to tailor your offerings to your customer’s needs. Multiple negative reactions to the same thing might signal that you have a flaw that needs to be acknowledged and corrected. Setting up automatic alerts (Google alerts, comment alerts) along with checks to be performed daily (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn) or weekly (Topsy) will help you stay on top of your reputation.
3. Say You’re Sorry
Be genuine and address the issue head on. If possible make amends by offering the customer a free product or service. Just one angry customer can cause widespread damage across multiple platforms. A negative comment on social media, if unaddressed could lead to a negative review. Since 90% of customers say their buying decisions are influenced by online reviews, it’s better to take care of the situation before it gets out of control. If the situation turns nasty, be careful not to let the argument go too far in a public setting. As seen in the real life examples earlier, heated arguments can escalate quickly and look amateur. Stay professional and continue the conversation through email to reach a solution.
4. React Quickly and Politely
Respond to customer questions through your social media channels. 38 percent of customers will feel more negatively toward a brand that doesn’t meet their standards for a timely response, and 6 out of 10 will continue to take action to share their dissatisfaction. Whether the comment is negative, a product question, or a comment respond as soon as possible. This creates brand loyalty and trust. Engaging with customers demonstrates that you care and they will feel more comfortable giving you their business in the future if you show you are ready to help with any issues that may arise. Answer questions publicly. Chances are multiple people have the same question so answering it will clear up the issue for everyone while at the same time establishing positive customer relationships. A simple thank you in response to a compliment leaves a customer feeling valued by your company.
5. Be Transparent
Another way to gain customer trust is to show you have nothing to hide. This can be risky, especially if a major problem arises. If a problem does come up, be as open as possible about the action your company will be taking. Let your customers know what the issue is and what is being done to fix it. Other ways to remain transparent are to ask for feedback, allow employees to talk about products and services publicly, and to address criticism instead of hiding it.
6. Encourage Customers to Speak Up
A one-star increase in Yelp rating leads to a 5-9% increase in revenue. To online customers, reviews signify legitimacy. Don’t let a few negative reviews skew your ratings. Disgruntled customers, motivated by their anger, are more likely to act and write reviews online. Satisfied customers need to be encouraged. Boost your positive reviews by making feedback as easy as possible. Offer incentives to say thank you for customers’ time and effort. With Belly this process can be fully automated right from your Belly iPad, but more on that later.
Create or share content that your customers want to know about. If you provide worthwhile, relevant, and valid information customers will respect you and view you as an expert in your field. When the time comes for them to make a purchase, they will more than likely choose the company they know and trust. Blogging also helps with SEO and is a great medium for addressing issues and responding to criticisms.
8. Be Congruent
If you’re doing it right, your company has a presence on everything from Facebook to Yelp to YouTube. Your next challenge is to make sure that each of these accounts are consistent. If multiple people are involved in keeping each of your company’s accounts active and populated (or if a single author doesn’t have a clearly defined voice), it may seem as if each account is a different brand. If the tone and content that you share is different depending on the platform it can be very confusing for a customer. If content comes from different sources, it might be a smart idea to designate one to rewrite and post.
9. Collect Feedback In-Store
69% of small business owners prefer feedback to be nonpublic. Make it easy for customers to provide comments before they even leave your store. If you, or your staff, feel uncomfortable directly asking for reviews, consider providing a comment card along with the receipt or prominently display a suggestion box. Physically posting some of the comments along with an answer from your company gives results similar to an online forum, but with more control on your end. With either of these options you have the ability to address negative comments before they are shared with the online community.
10. Claim Brands and Products
Have more than one brand or product within your company? Online reputation management is important for each of these brands and products. They are just as vulnerable to social media attacks and negative reviews. Follow the same steps to develop both websites and social media and create a presence. Even people who represent your company, such as a CEO or prominent employees, should be sure to take all the same steps as your main company.
11. Be Creative
Create a loyal following by interacting with customers in original ways. There are countless ways to spark attention on the web. You could host an instagram contest, or encourage customers to post videos of themselves using your product to YouTube. As an added benefit, videos are great for search engine rankings. Build your image as a innovative brand and keep your company at the top of the customers minds by having something new and exciting happening regularly.
12. Have a Plan
Don’t wait until a crisis happens to create a plan of action. You’ll keep your head and be smart about your response to a disaster if you’ve already thought through possible problems and their corresponding solutions.
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