What do your customers say about you once the doors are closed or you go offline? You may not know, but you should. Word of mouth promotion is alive and well and it has gone online. Today it is tougher to keep your reputation positive because your customer base is not just two neighbors chatting over a fence-it has gone global.
Websites like Angie’s List, Yelp or Google Reviews allow customers to leave unsolicited reviews about businesses all over the country. If you have ever visited a review site or forum, you have probably read the frustration some customers have. And it’s not always pretty. Learn how to manage your small business’s online reputation. Keep your good name and your word by staying on top of customer requests and complaints. In the process, you’ll also glean some good reviews and plenty of testimonials.
If You Build It
Build your own website or blog and allow your clients to leave reviews there. It is easier to deal with complaints if you know where they are. By creating a venue for customers to share experiences with your company, you demonstrate your willingness to address issues when they arise. Maintaining an interactive website will give you a catchall for complaints. This kind of setup is easier for the small business owner to manage.
Once you have a system in place to engage the customer, you’ll need to monitor it regularly. If you can’t afford a customer service department, appoint a dependable person to field questions and fix problems. Respond to the comments, regardless of how wacky or nasty, in a calm and professional manner. Offer to troubleshoot the issue according to your company’s policy then follow through. Just collecting complaints isn’t enough. You will need to address them promptly. If possible, don’t allow comments to sit without at least an initial response–no longer than 24 hours.
Search and Crawl
Chances are, some folks won’t visit your site. You’ll have to go to them. Run your business name, and your own, through large search engines like Google and Yahoo. If you find negative reviews or comments, address them privately or publicly according to their nature. If possible, direct the commenter back to your website to continue the conversation there. You’ll have to search and crawl at least once a week to stay on top of your online reputation.
Sign up for alerts. Google will email you daily to alert you when your name is mentioned. Twitter will show you how many people “tweeted” about you in live time.
Be proactive about your online reputation. Your small business is often defined by the words of others. Get involved in the virtual conversation and build your business!