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Online Reputation Management: Keeping Your Cool When Things Get Hot

An angry customer has just posted a complaint to your Facebook page. What should you do?


a)    Ignore them and hope they go away?
b)    Quickly respond in your defense?
c)    Take down your Facebook page?
d)    None of the above

Social media has many benefits. It helps expand the reach of your business by getting your message out on many channels in a cost effective manner. It can improve your SEO by helping you to “own” the first page of search results for your company name. With these benefits also comes a down-side: dealing with upset customers and negative feedback. No one likes to field complaints, but as a business owner, it comes with the territory.

Before the internet, customer opinions about a product or service were transmitted mostly by word of mouth. With social media, people can now voice their opinions more loudly and with much broader influence. This is wonderful when the feedback is good, but not so wonderful when it’s less than flattering, or in some cases, downright mean-spirited.

Due to social media’s growing influence, companies are being held accountable like never before. In today’s competitive business climate, it’s imperative to take into account people’s voices, opinions and reviews and take an active role in online social interaction. Engaging with an upset customer in an open and honest manner by using the strategies below can diffuse tension and even turn him or her into a raving fan.

Without further ado, here are 6 important steps to help you manage your online reputation successfully:

  1. Don’t ignore.
    Ignoring negative posts on social media won’t make them go away. It will only lead to more negative chatter and send a signal to your customers and prospective customers that you don’t care enough about them to address complaints. In a worst case scenario, the negative reviews could make it to the first page of search results – something you want to prevent at all costs.
     
  2. Don’t make excuses.
    It’s natural to want to defend yourself and your business in front of millions of social media users, but don’t do it. If someone is upset enough to post about it, they are looking for a solution, not an excuse. Resist the urge to place blame on a third party. It may well be the fault of a third party, but the customer doesn’t care. They want solutions and placing blame is just another form of an excuse.
     
  3. Apologize.
    No matter how wrong or unfair you feel the complaint is, you need to offer an apology. When providing an apology, balance customizing your apology to the particular situation with applying some standard approaches. The key is to be genuine and empathetic. It shows that you listen and care about the customer, and that can go a long way in conflict resolution. For prospective customers who might be checking you out to see if you are worth doing business with, reading your earnest response to others can work in your favor and hopefully dispel any concerns they may have when making a decision to work with you.
     
  4. Offer a solution.
    When someone posts a negative review, they are generally doing it for two main reasons: 1) they are upset enough that they feel compelled to vent and want others to know about it, and 2) they want you to do something about it. Many of them want to continue doing business with you. You just need to give them a good reason to do so. Even those who declare, “I won’t be coming back,” may reconsider if you demonstrate good faith and offer a solution.
     
  5. Get the conversation out of the public eye.
    The last thing you want is to participate in an online argument. A string of back-and-forth comments accompanying a bad review will attract negative attention and can come off as argumentative, even if the conversation remains civil. In your initial response, after you’ve covered steps 1-4 above, your closing should direct the conversation off-line via email, phone or in person.
     
  6. Use tools to listen and learn.
    Take a proactive approach in monitoring online comments about your business. You can easily do this by setting up Google Alerts to monitor chatter for specific keywords. You will receive a notification anytime they find new search results for your keywords, which will allow you to address issues promptly.

Another useful tool is Boardreader.com, a search engine expressly for online forums and boards. Depending on the industry you are in, forums and boards may be a common platform for posting negative reviews.
 

If you find yourself in need of direction when it comes to your online reputation, contact the internet marketing team at Global Reach.

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