Of all the categories involved in managing a business’s online reputation, reputation repair is the one most fraught with confusion.
Humans hate criticism - founded or unfounded. Any sort of negativity directed toward your business—earned or otherwise—holds an immense power to inflict damage in both the present and the future. How you respond can either mollify the situation or exacerbate it, and with the stakes so high, not many businesses can afford a misstep.
Reputation repair refers to actions taken to respond to and resolve online reputation problems. And it’s a necessary step for mitigating the potentially disastrous fallout that can occur from online vitriol sent in your direction. Consider the following statistics about consumer behavior and reputation:
- More than 25% of a company’s market value is directly attributable to their reputation
- 41% of companies that have been dealt a reputation blow reported loss of brand value and revenue
- 86% of consumers are willing to pay more for services from a company with a good reputation
- 80% of consumers have changed their mind about a purchasing decision as a result of negative information
Consumers want to spend their money with businesses they trust and like. A negative smear on your reputation doesn’t just threaten your integrity—it threatens your entire existence. Fortunately, damage control is possible. Here are some tips for doing it right.
Monitor What's Said Online
You can’t address a situation if you don’t know it’s occurring. The earlier you can handle a reputation issue the better, so you need to be on constant lookout for potentially damaging information. Set up a Google Alert or better yet a Talk Walker Alert for your name, your company’s name, and key employees’ names. This way, as soon as a mention occurs or shortly thereafter — good or bad — you’ll be notified via email.
Respond Appropriately to Bad Reviews
Different scenarios warrant different responses, but whenever you’re dealing with someone attempting to harm your reputation you need to take the high road as best as you can. According to one study, 70% of customers who complain will do business with you again if you resolve the complaint in a positive way.
Always respond to complaints non-defensively and with efforts toward a resolution. Think of bad reviews as opportunities to show others how you act when things don’t go your way. Consumers like humility, meaning through your response to a bad review, you can actually improve your reputation.
When Not to Respond to Bad Reviews
If a reviewer uses an attack site, a review site where they cannot delete or edit their review, an online response may be a waste of time or worse. You should still try to fix the problem, but do so offline if possible. If you respond on an attack site you will be addding content to the complaint. That content can trigger higher search results for the problem. So for these types of sites, try to help the consumer without adding content to the complaint.
How to Remove Bad Reviews
A bad review is one thing, a smear campaign is another. The Internet is full of people who will post information both true and false to try to bring your business down. Assuming the content is simply negative (and not libelous), your best course of action is to try and reduce its impact. Contact the author and/or site administrator to inquire (politely) about having the content removed. If they refuse, turn your efforts toward the creation of positive content that will reduce the negative content’s visibility.
Another option is to examine the Terms of Service of the website. For example, Yelp says that certain types of reviews can be removed if they violate their TOS. These types of reviews can be removed right at the source.
Try to Solve the Problem First
Yes, things would be easier for you if all negative content related to your business ceased to exist. But you’d also be missing an opportunity to convey just how great your customer service is.
In terms of likeability and trustworthiness—two major components dictating whether customers decide to do business with you—strong, positive customer service can certainly outweigh catty negativity. Removing content doesn’t solve a situation, it just hides it.
Try to Control Your Search Results
Many consumers only need to see one or two bad things about a company before deciding to give their business elsewhere. That being said, many consumers also aren’t scrolling past the first page or two of Google results when they search your name. A basic reputation management plan can go a long way towards mitigating problems before they happen.
Take as many steps as you can to dictate the story that’s told about you via the search engines, including creating plenty of quality content that paints a positive picture of your company, collaborating with relevant, reliable sites through guest posts, and optimizing your SEO efforts to increase your own online authority.
Look at social media as an avenue for your to communicate directly with consumers, furthering your positive image and building strong associations. Social media humanizes businesses, attaching personalities and names to corporate entities. Interact with consumers early and often and you’ll build positive relationships that can withstand a few negative comments. Social media is part of a comprehensive content management plan.
Try to Look on the Bright Side
Hidden within all negative content are hints for how you can better your company. Consider why the consumer is upset, and without laying blame, think about where they might be making a point. Perhaps your communication strategy needs work, or you need to improve the quality of your product. There’s always a lesson to be learned, and subsequently, a way to improve. If you can respond to negativity with acknowledgement of a fault and an idea for how you’re going to make it better, you support your reputation in the present and in the future.
If you don't solve the problem, and it's systemic, it will keep happening.
When You Need a Helping Hand
The extent of your reputation repair campaign depends on just how bad the damage is. A few bad comments here and there may not harm you too much, but if you’re faced with an onslaught of negativity that is truly threatening your business, consider hiring a professional to handle the repairs. You’ll have the confidence of knowing an expert is working on your behalf, and you’ll likely take away a lot of good information about how you can do better in the future.
Repairing your online reputation doesn’t have to be a scary undertaking. Handle crises early, and with the best of intentions, and you’ll notice that you can mitigate quite a lot of the potential damage. Many businesses have been in similar situations and survived, and by taking control of the dialogue, you can too.