We live in a brave new world—an information age. That’s why business owners need to proactively manage their reputation on review sites like Google Places, Angie’s List, and Yelp.
In years past, it was much harder to build a reputation for good service. You might run the best establishment in town, but word of mouth often spread slowly. Online review sites make it easy to spread the word about your business. This can be good and bad.
Positive reviews can be a tremendous boon to your business, as consumers increasingly review sites before deciding which business to patron. Conversely, negative reviews can tank a business.
Follow these tips to proactively manage your online reputation:
1. Keep an Eye on Your Reviews
If you are not already doing so, you begin monitoring your online reviews. As the owner, you can “claim” your business on most review sites. Once you do, then you can more easily follow what people are saying about you: the good, the bad, and the ugly.
2. Respond Accordingly
As with all forms of social media, it is important to engage and interact with users. This may help you build stronger ties with existing customers and take the sting out of negative reviews. Be tactful and professional.
Send personal messages thanking customers for positive reviews. Yelp suggests that you should aim simply to “let them know you care.” But, the site cautions against quibbling over minor complaints and or using the opportunity to explicitly solicit further business.
Negative reviews can be extremely frustrating, especially if you feel the reviewer has misstated facts or overstated his or her point. Unfortunately, negative reviews don’t disappear. Generally companies like Yelp and Google will only remove a review if it violates the review site’s terms of service or content guidelines.
Mitigate the impact of a negative review with a polite and apologetic response. Don’t make excuses or quibble over details. Draft your response, then ‘sleep on it’ and review and edit later before posting. This will help ensure that you strike a professional, rather than an angry and defiant, tone.
3. Encourage Patrons to Give Positive Feedback
Most importantly, encourage your patrons to support your business by giving positive online reviews and by following you on Facebook and other social media. Remember that bad reviews are inevitable. A disproportionate number of positive reviews will cancel out stray negative remarks.