26 Aug Reputation Management Is More Important than Ever
The reputation of your business online is always important, but it’s now even more so due to the effects of the coronavirus pandemic. Businesses around the world are greatly relying on their online reviews and digital reputation to retain customers and attract new ones, and businesses in the UK are no different. Consumers have become more cautious shoppers during these times, and they also have to rely on the online reputation of businesses to decide whether or not to purchase their products or services while staying at home.
So, what can you do to better manage your online reputation during these times?
To find some answers, let’s take a closer look at the effects of COVID-19 on online reputation, why it’s important to remain calm when responding to online reviews, and how to determine if an online review is actually fake.
The Effect of COVID-19 on Online Reputation
It’s important to monitor your online reputation during lockdown and even as lockdowns begin to slowly ease up. COVID-19 has not only affected how businesses operate, but it has also affected how businesses interact online. Throughout the pandemic and beyond, how your business behaves online with your consumers will determine whether or not they are likely to do business with you in the future.
Giles Robertson, lecturer in digital marketing at the University of Bedfordshire, had this to say in regards to how brands should present themselves during these times:
“People will remember the good actions, as they did for brands who advertised through the wars, like Watermans, Bovril and Sunlight Soap. Even if your activities make a loss and you don’t have products to sell, supporting and entertaining your customers can ensure the brand comes out of the crisis stronger and more loved.”
Survey data can help us understand the importance of online reputation management further.
Online reviews are one of the most influential factors during the pandemic, and a recent Trustpilot survey found that 33.6% of surveyed consumers have increased checking online reviews of products and services during the lockdown. According to research published by BrightLocal in 2016, 84% of consumers reported trusting online reviews as much as recommendations from someone they know. While the BrightLocal data may be a few years old, the percentage has likely increased over the years and especially the last few months.
So, how should you be managing your online reputation in the midst of pandemic?
Emma Kane, Chief Executive of Newgate Communications, emphasizes how much responding to customers matters right now:
“When companies get it wrong, they shouldn’t ignore online criticism. You wouldn’t leave someone standing in your reception for five days screaming at the top of their voice. Whether it is critical articles, reviews, posts on social media or negative consumer review sites, businesses should engage, apologise and put things right. ‘Sorry’ goes a very long way.”
Customers also want to feel heard by the brands they follow; they want to know their needs and concerns are being addressed. This is where customer relationship management is also crucial. Managing your reputation comes both in the form of directly addressing your online reviews and customer feedback, as well as how your business engages on social media. These platforms are the digital spaces your customers are searching for to see how brands are measuring up to their expectations during this time.
Don’t Get Emotional
Positive online reviews are great for your business to have, but negative reviews are also inevitable from time to time. While a negative review might make you want to be defensive of your business as the business owner or manager, it’s important to not respond emotionally and to approach the situation in a calm manner. Responding appropriately to negative reviews is just as influential as receiving positive reviews, as it shows potential customers how much their experience matters to your business. After all, we’ve now seen the data that shows how much online reviews matter in the eyes of consumers.
Aside from responding emotionally, the next worst thing a business can do for a negative review is to ignore it completely. Delaying a response can also show that your business doesn’t care about the negative experiences of its customers, especially the longer the review stays online without a response.
So, how should you respond to negative reviews?
Address the customer’s concerns factually and with the sincerity to find an acceptable solution. If the customer’s concern is truly the fault of your business or a staff member, state clearly how the situation has been addressed and what next steps you plan to take as the owner or manager. Even for situations where the negative review is the result of the customer’s wrongdoing, refrain from pointing fingers and harshly putting the blame on the customer. Instead, you may want to direct the customer to any related facts or company policies surrounding the situation. Finishing up a response to a negative review should include an opportunity for the customer to follow up with your business in a more direct manner, so be sure to provide the appropriate forms of contact where the customer can reach you to resolve the concerns in the review.
Prospective customers who see your responses will be impressed with your professionalism and will be more likely to overlook the negative review — and satisfied customers may change their negative review to a positive one!
Could a Bad Review Be Fake?
Unfortunately, fake reviews do exist. This, however, does not mean that every bad review is a fake review. All reviews should be addressed as legitimate until proven otherwise in order to ensure that your level of customer service and online reputation remain high.
Here are five ways to check if a negative review might be fake:
- They aren’t listed in your POS or CRM software.
- There’s no record of the customer contacting your customer service. (Give them the direct contact information in your response if this is the case).
- The reviewer has left out specific details relevant to their negative experience, such as the name of an employee.
- A large amount of negative reviews posted very close together could indicate a spammer or competitor trying to falsely bring down your reputation.
- The direct mention of a competitor in the review could also point to said competitor being the likely culprit of the bad review.
On Google, it is possible to remove fake negative reviews from your Google My Business listing. You should be very certain the review is fake before flagging it as inappropriate. Flagging comments too often will result in being penalized by Google, especially if they are real. If you are confident a competitor is behind a negative review, you might also consider contacting them directly to resolve the situation in a calm manner.
If a negative review violates Google’s guidelines, then you also have the option to contact Google support from your Google My Business profile. This can result in Google removing the comment if enough evidence is provided showing the review is false.
Managing Your Online Presence in the Time of Pandemic
Online customer reviews can make or break your business, especially as consumers look to online shopping and online resources to make their purchasing decisions during the ongoing pandemic. Review sites like Google and Yelp are important, but they’re not the only place your business needs to be monitoring its presence. Social media and community websites also influence your brand’s reputation. Whether you need to turn a poor reputation into a positive one or you simply need to boost your existing good reputation, Virtual Stacks Systems UK can help! We provide expert digital marketing services — including review management, social media marketing, SEO services and more.
We’d love to hear from you and learn how we can boost your reach online! Contact us today to get started.