“Your reputation precedes you” is a statement that has never been truer. The internet is just one large word-of-mouth machine – people expressing opinions, reviewing and recommending. These days your potential customers don’t just see the company image you project, they see your company through everyone else’s eyes. In fact, your own website or social media might not be the first port of call for a new customer as 93% of online experiences begin with a search engine – this may lead them to your website but it might also lead customers to other references of your business such as reviews, social media, other people’s sites. The accumulation of all this information written about your business creates your online reputation – hopefully it’s a good one, but if not then I’ll give you some pointers on how to manage that too.
If you’re currently saying to yourself: “but my business isn’t online!”, this article is still for you. Most businesses will have an online reputation whether they like it or not. If your business hasn’t got its own online presence (ie. website, social media) it doesn’t mean that you aren’t on the web somewhere – you can guarantee some of your customers are online and they might be talking about you!
Reputation starts with you
Online reputation starts with the obvious – the better service and products you offer, the less likely customers are to complain or write negative things about you. Make sure the customer facing sections of your business are given top priority, so that if something does go wrong you have the best people and procedures in place to deal with it. One of the biggest complaints online is bad service, something that can so easily be rectified before it gets out of hand – 71% of people post their complaint online as a result of failing traditional customer service.71% of people post their complaint online as a result of failing traditional customer service #reputation Click To Tweet
If you do make a mistake then don’t panic, sort it out with your customer swiftly and they will have no reason to take it further – you don’t want them to resort to complaining on social media or other online outlets. Plus, if you rectify their problem you might also be able to keep them as a customer – up to 95% of customers will give you a second chance if you handle their complaint successfully and in a timely manner. Don’t forget that when things go wrong an apology will go a long way.
Where is your online reputation?
Your reputation can essentially exist anywhere on the web, but the most popular areas for your to look at are:
- Social media – whether it’s Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn or any of the other social media networks there will probably be at least a few of your customers on one or more of them and they might be discussing your company. 45% of of people stated they share bad customer service experiences on platforms such as Facebook and Twitter and 30% reported using these channels to share good customer service experiences
- Review sites – There are lots of places that users can review your business online. The review sites that carry the most weight are those that are large and trusted, particularly if they have been going a long time and have built up an excellent database of reviews. The type of review sites can vary, for example:
- When looking for a local business then the Yell.com review pages are a great place to start. You can search by type of business and location, and there is a easy to see star-rating system for each company on there
- There are also excellent review sites for specialist areas like Trust a Trader that helps you find a good tradespeople in your area, the Good Garage Scheme that has local garage reviews or Trip Advisor which is a good site for holiday and hotel reviews
- There are also review sites, like Trust Pilot, that cover a variety of nationwide and online businesses
- Forums – There are millions of forums all over the internet covering pretty much every subject under the sun. As a member of several forums I can tell you that there is often chatter, positive and negative, on how businesses perform. For particularly close-knit forum communities a company recommendation can send a lot of business their way, or complaint about a company can cause the rest of the members to boycott them completely
- Blogs – There are many blogs dedicated to product and company reviews. Normally each blogger has a specialist area so, for example, you might have a blogger that deals only in the beauty industry, another might be a specialist in the food industry. They can be fantastic advocates for your company if they see you have good procuts and service – but they can also be your worst enemy if you make them unhappy
- News sites – If your business does something really bad then you might end up in the news like United Airlines did a few years ago when they broke a passenger’s guitar and their customer service failed to rectify and contain the situation. The good news is that business get in to the news for good things too and if that happens then shout about it from the rooftops!
- Your website – Case studies and testimonials are great additions to your website, they help boost your reputation and give you credibility – plus you have full control over what you put up, so you can pick and choose the best ones! Another option is to have reviews on your site, these can either be product based or company based. Product based ones allow people to rate individual products, one of the best example of this is on the Amazon website where customers can write a review for every product. Another option is to use a review system like FeeFo, it’s an external system that you embed into your site and when a customer has dealt with your company they get asked for feedback that you can automatically display on your site.
Search engine ranking
A search engine can be your best friend or your biggest nightmare, which one depends on whether your online reputation is good or bad in the areas I mentioned in the previous section. Many of the large review sites, newspapers, popular blogs and social media sites rank highly in search engines, in many cases they might have a higher ranking than your own site. So if your company name ends up in one of their sites then it might end up above your own site in the search engine rankings – this is great if it’s a good piece on how wonderful you are, but if it’s bad then that can be disastrous and very difficult to counteract! If you see something like this happen you must act straight away, if it’s a positive piece then you must tell everyone about it, but if it’s bad then you must get to work on managing the crisis.
The best way to quickly spot something on the web that will affect your online reputation is to set up some monitoring tools, I’ll talk more about these in my next post ‘Managing your company’s online reputation (Part 2)‘.