Your business is a tremendous source of pride for you. You have products and/or services that are valuable.You are making an extremely valuable contribution to the marketplace. Something happens. How do you make sure that your good name isn’t ruined?
If and when something happens that negatively impacts your business’s reputation, you may feel that you have absolutely no control. That is actually not entirely true. If your business is doing well and the products and/or services that you offer are popular, you may think that nothing can touch you. Unfortunately, it is in that situation that your business is the most vulnerable because of your competitors. They would love nothing better than to see your business fail. The less competition they have, the more likely they will be to succeed. If you don’t learn (very quickly) how to manage your business’s online reputation, you may not survive. The extreme use of social networks has changed the entire paradigm when it comes to your reputation online.
Paying close attention to reviews
As a business owner, it is critical that you pay close attention to what others are saying about your business and your products and/or services. With online communication being so easy because of the advances in technology and social media as an ever-growing, solid entity, one of the main ways that customers make their decision about whether to buy a product and/or service is by reading online reviews from other people who have already had the experience with your products and/or services. Customers pay attention to reviews and ratings. There are many places where you might be able to find online reviews, including blogs, Facebook, Twitter, and Google (and other similar search engines). Because of this effective method of communication, you, as a business owner, must ensure that the ratings and reviews that you are receiving are clean. In other words, the majority of the reviews and ratings that people are posting are positive. Of course, you should expect that, on occasion, you will receive a negative review even you may have done everything in your power to make sure that that customer is satisfied. It just happens sometimes.
Managing your reputation online is not that difficult, as long as your approach is sensible and as long as you include the important elements that must be included.
Monitoring your reputation
The way that you begin to monitor your business’s online reputation is by following conversations that other people are having online about your business. Some well-thought-out keywords can easily show you which topics customers are discussing. When you first start to monitor the conversations, you may feel overwhelmed by the volume of content that is going back and forth. However, in all likelihood, it won’t take very long at all before you get to the important part of the discussions and are able to quickly eliminate what is not important or relevant. So, start with the keywords.
Listening (really listening) to your customers is critical to the success of monitoring your online reputation. When you listen, you will be able to differentiate the important stuff from the unimportant stuff. Usually, the two categories of discussions about your business are 1) people who are actively sharing information with one another about your business and 2) people who have a negative feeling about something connected to your business and who are warning of something that will occur in the near future. The second category really requires that you not only listen well to what is being said but that you also do your best to diffuse what is coming so that the impact (if and when it does happen) is minimal. Listening effectively is not merely a skill. It requires a definitive and structured plan of action and an attitude that is neither defensive nor overprotective. You must try to remain as objective as possible when you are dealing with people. Always try to consider that the feedback that you receive will strengthen your offerings.
It is not easy to respond to negative feedback and avoid crises based on that feedback. You certainly don’t want to come across as inhuman. The reason that people supply negative feedback is because they are experiencing some level of dissatisfaction. They are hoping that you can make them feel more satisfied. Always come across as sympathetic (or even empathetic, if you can manage it). Try to put yourself in their place. Before you respond to the person, you should try your best to figure out what went wrong and why. Next, you should try to come up with a solution and communicate clearly how you are going to make it better for the customer.
Bringing your successes to the forefront
If you do receive negative feedback, you should try to offer some sort of reward to the customer so that their view of you and your business becomes more positive (such as a gift certificate, some sort of free service, discounts, etc). In the end, the customer will be happy and you will be happy. Everyone wins. The effort that you, as the business owner, made to satisfy the customer should never go unnoticed. The world should have the opportunity to know (through social media) how important your customers’ satisfaction is and how far you are willing to go to make sure that they are satisfied.
Managing your business’s online reputation is a critical part of your success. The borders around your business’s reputation must be strong and you must ensure that they have been fortified enough to withstand whatever comes along. It isn’t as difficult or time-consuming as you might think. Your approach should be methodical and thought out. If you follow the logical and simple approach that has been discussed here, you will start to see results that will bring you closer and closer to more and more success.
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Michael Cohn is the founder and Chief Technology Officer (CTO) of CompuKol Communications LLC. He has over 25 years of experience in IT and web technologies.
Mr. Cohn founded CompuKol Communications to help small businesses and entrepreneurs increase their exposure and reputation on the Internet. CompuKol consults, creates, and implements communication strategies for small businesses to monopolize their markets with a unique business voice, vision, and visibility.
Prior to that, Mr. Cohn spent a significant amount of time at a major telecommunications company, where his main focus was on initiating and leading synergy efforts across all business units by dramatically improving efficiency, online collaboration, and the company’s Intranet capabilities, which accelerated gains in business productivity. His expertise includes social media marketing strategies; internet marketing; web presence design; business analysis; project management; management of global cross-matrix teams; systems engineering and analysis, architecture, prototyping and integration; technology evaluation and assessment; systems development; performance evaluation; and management of off-shore development.
Mr. Cohn earned a Master’s degree in project management from George Washington University in Washington, DC; and a Master’s degree in computer science and a Bachelor of Science degree in electrical engineering from Fairleigh Dickinson University in Teaneck, NJ.