Managing a business reputation was once a simple matter. You would receive a letter of complaint or a phone call from an unhappy customer and you could deal with this very quickly and simply. The internet has brought bloggers, review sites and social media so today's unhappy customer can quickly post online and ruin a strong reputation.
If you do a search for your business by name, poor reviews or critical articles will appear in search results and can be very damaging. Remember that a critical article or a blog will be there forever unless it is taken down.
1. Your first act should be prevention
If you have staff you need a social media strategy that should include:
Who posts and tweets your news and views and be clear what they can tweet and post
Who and how will you respond to posts and direct messages, are staff free to set up their own accounts and link to your business
Who do you want to link to, follow and connect with and who is not acceptable
What is your company policy on releasing news? What news are you going to release about your customers and clients?
Make staff aware of your social media policy when you take them on and in development reviews. One of the most important reasons for having a social media policy in place is the potential for a damaged business reputation as staff go it alone and customer complaints on social media going unanswered.
Like no other form of marketing and promotion social media has the potential to both raise your business profile, bring you to the attention of new audiences and at the same time cause your business and your brand serious reputation harm.
2. When customers complain or post poor reviews
What is your policy on customer's complaints? Do you have a policy that all staff can follow? Apologies go a long way as do gift vouchers, put right what you can, apologise and follow up
3. If you are planning to send out E mailings
Think and plan carefully how this will work. You will inevitably increase complaints if you buy in lists. However much the seller has 'cleaned' the list there will be large numbers who do not want to receive anything from you.
It is a much better option to build your list from opt ins on your web site and also when you take on new clients and customers. Send out introduction and welcome E mails, tell your subscribers when to expect your mailings and what you will be sending.
4. Deal quickly and appropriately with complaints
Don't talk with your customers through social media sites, get their e mail or phone number and deal with it offline. This is a more professional approach and less public.
5. What you can do about malicious reviews
Respond quickly to bad reviews on the site they appear. If you think your review is malicious take it the web site provider or company and make an appeal. The same applies to critical comments in blog posts. These reviews generally 'fall down the page' as time passes and you receive new reviews.
Critical press coverage is the most difficult to deal with as publications add news stories to their web site. One way to counter their effects is to send out positive news stories to the press and from your business. The idea being that the positive news will out do the critical news online.