How to Turn Negative Reviews Into an Asset

The importance of customer generated publicity is growing all the time. According to a 2015 survey by BrightLocal, 92 percent of people use online reviews to learn more about a product or service, up from 88 percent only a year before. More and more people now base their buying decisions on comments from other customers, so it’s vital that businesses have numerous reviews left by genuine clients.

At Reputation Defender we work with companies to manage their reputation and create positive online content. There is nothing more valuable than testimony from a satisfied customer, but unfortunately not all reviews will be positive. Every business will face negative comments from a dissatisfied customer at some point, so it’s not a matter of if but when. Business leaders need to be ready with a plan in place to deal with negative publicity when it appears.

Stars are Important

Star rating is the number one factor that consumers use to judge a business, so a one or two star rating can really hurt a company that doesn’t have many reviews. On the other hand, it will be much less noticeable if there are already a high number of four or five star reviews. Surprisingly, a few unenthusiastic comments can actually help. Customers will tend to question the reliability of the reviews if each one has a solid five star rating.

Making Reviews Work for Your Company

Here are six steps to make reviews work for you company:

  1. Be proactive about customer service – Handling dissatisfied customers before they have a chance to leave a review is the most effective way of preventing negative comments. Online rants often come as a result of customers feeling ignored or overlooked, so if something occurs to disrupt normal service, or you know a customer is unhappy, make sure compensation is offered. A coupon, a discount on a future visit, or even a full refund can be worth it if it keeps the company’s reputation intact.
  2. Make it easy to leave a review – Generating a high volume of reviews is the best way to ensure a four or five star average. If you focus on excellent customer service, most people will have a positive experience and be happy to leave a testimonial, but they may not think about it unless you remind them. Send out review invitations by email, or on a receipt. Offer prizes or contests for people who leave comments. If you have regular customers, don’t be afraid to ask them directly.
  3. Set up an alert – Even with your best efforts, there will always be some negative reviews. Register for a Google Alert, so you will know right away when someone leaves a comment about your business, negative or positive. This will give you more time to read and respond to the comment before it has a chance to go viral.
  4. Respond appropriately –Mature responses show you can take constructive criticism and help to convince other readers that you’re not the one being unreasonable. Address the issue directly, apologize and explain what has been done to fix the problem. This makes readers feel you listen and are trying to improve. It’s also important to respond to positive reviews, so everyone leaving a comment knows they are appreciated.
  5. Take executive action when necessary – Responses that come from high-level management will always be more effective. Not every executive has time to respond to reviews regularly, but just a few comments a month will show feedback is taken seriously.
  6. Track your statistics – If you practice good customer service and encourage reviews, you should get four or five stars from approximately 85 percent of your customers. Many customers distrust reviews that are entirely positive, so don’t make this a goal. Welcome some negative comments, but respond appropriately and try to make sure a similar situation doesn’t occur again.

ORM for Hotels – The Importance of an Online Profile

Nowhere is online reputation management more important than within the hospitality industry. Statistics show that 97 percent of people look at online comments from previous guests when considering a hotel, while 93 percent find this an important way of determining their choice. More than half (53 percent) won’t book a hotel without reading online opinions.

Many hotels don’t establish an ORM strategy until they start receiving negative attention. This is a mistake. Google and other search engines rank content from online travel sites such as Trip Advisor and Expedia highly, so what people are saying about you really does matter. Unless the hotel already has a strong online profile, content from these sites is going to appear prominently on the Search Engine Results Page (SERP) and this will be the first thing a potential customer sees. It’s impossible to control guests’ opinions, but by optimizing brand-generated content so that it ranks high on page one of the search results, will at least ensure that clients find a balanced representation of the hotel. Responding appropriately to customer comments further decreases the impact as researchers see you are using feedback to make the experience better for everyone.

ORM Strategy

An online reputation management (ORM) strategy needs to be planned and coordinated just like any other marketing campaign. Large hotels often devote an entire department to this effort. Small and medium sized organizations may have fewer resources to employ qualified full-time staff. Working with a third-party can be a cost-effective way of implementing a professional ORM campaign without expanding employee payroll. Reputation Defender has been a global leader in this industry since Michael Fertik founded the company in 2006. We help numerous individual and corporate clients establish their brand’s presence on the internet.

Online Reputation Equals Revenue

A 2015 TripAdvisor survey which investigated more than 10,000 hospitality businesses around the world, found that ORM was a top investment priority for 60 percent of hotels. This was in contrast to small scale renovations which were only a priority for 53 percent and other marketing campaigns which ranked at 51 percent. This study shows that hoteliers are recognizing the strong correlation between positive online reputation and sales volume. A TripAdvisor rating, which is based on the quality and quantity of the recent guest feedback, can have an almost immediate effect on booking, so it’s important to already have positive content posted, especially positive customer testimonials.

Establish an Online Presence

How does a hospitality manager counteract the weight of customer opinion which is now so available and measurable on the internet? Every business will face negative online comments at some point. The key is to build a positive presence through brand generated content, so researchers can see at first glance that the hotel has a lot to offer. It’s not enough to build a professional website and move on to other things. Hoteliers need to maintain a constant stream of up-to-date and relevant content, backed-up by thoughtful and genuine responses to guest feedback.

Here are 5 musts for establishing a hotel’s online profile:

  • Optimize the Brand Name – Promote the hotel’s website with Google Business and claim official profiles on Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms. Connect company blogs and secondary websites on an alternate domain to ensure your content dominates as many results as possible.
  • Post Regularly – Fresh content will rank higher with search engines, so make sure you post regular blog and social media updates. This includes multimedia content such as images and videos. Tag the hotel’s brand name in filenames, titles and alt content so that it ranks for that search term.
  • Set Up Automatic Alerts – It’s important to be the first to know about negative feedback, yet it’s impossible to constantly monitor all social media platforms, especially when you are running a business at the same time. You’ll need an automatic system that directly notifies the hotel when new comments are posted. Someone should monitor this feed during business hours and notify appropriate staff.
  • Analyze Feedback – Figure out what went wrong. Was it a one-time lapse in service, an endemic problem that is likely to happen again, or an unreasonable guest who would not have been satisfied no matter what you did? Knowing whether the root of the problem lies in the service department or within ORM strategies will help you devise an appropriate response that limits similar problems in the future.
  • Work as a Team – Set reputation objectives and share these with staff so that everyone promotes the same cohesive brand message. Put a coordinated team in place to handle monitoring and responses. Make sure everyone posting on official social media profiles exemplifies the same professional style.
Summary

ORM for hotels is about balancing your own content against what customers say about you. Be ready with a strong, positive online profile, whether this is created by your own staff or a third party like Reputation Defender. Once a comment is posted, it’s time for damage control. Respond appropriately and take action to avoid attracting similar criticism. If you have the SERP already filled with positive, brand controlled content, one negative review will have less effect.

Promote Your Business Online – Get a Handle on Online Reviews

Word of mouth used to be one of the most reliable ways to build a business reputation. Satisfied customers recommended businesses to their neighbors and relatives, building long-term loyalty amongst the local population. With the growth of the internet however, all that has changed. Most promotion now takes place online and companies serve a wide geographical area.

Online reviews have largely taken the place of personal word of mouth recommendations. The internet is both a more powerful and a more dangerous medium. Once posted, a written review will be hard to erase and it will be visible to anyone researching your business – even if they are on the other side of the planet. It’s also easy for consumers to post an anonymous review without having to be held accountable for exaggerated or angry comments.

Online reviews can have a big effect on a business’s reputation, both positively and negatively. This is especially true for small companies, who may not have a large online profile to counter the effect of several negative reviews. ReputationDefender is a leader in global online reputation management services, helping business clients generate positive content and construct a resilient brand name. Our experts can help turn online reviews into an asset rather than a threat to your brand’s image.

The Importance of Online Reviews

If you doubt the power of online reviews, look at the following 8 statistics from a cross-section of different studies.

  • 80 percent of customers say they have decided not to purchase a product or service after reading a negative review.
  • 90 percent say reading positive reviews has impacted their decision to buy certain products.
  • 45 percent say they trust online reviews the most when decision making.
  • 92 percent say they’ve made some buying decisions based on online reviews.
  • 67 percent of customers read less than six reviews before making a decision.
  • A three-star versus a four-star rating on Yelp can drop a restaurant’s revenue by 9 percent.
  • 72 percent of internet users believe online reviews as much as personal recommendations.
  • Online review content carries about 10 percent weight with Google search page rankings.

Figures can vary somewhat from survey to survey and amongst different industries but it’s easy to see that both positive and negative reviews can have a huge impact on your business.

How to Handle Negative Reviews

Every company will face a negative comment at some point. Businesses can often find this frustrating, especially since one upset customer who had a bad experience is more likely to leave a review than one hundred people who had good service and have nothing to complain about.  A desire to withdraw from the situation is natural but unfortunately it is not the best strategy.

Monitoring reviews and responding appropriately will help to diminish their impact more than pretending they do not exist. A simple Google alert can help by letting you know when a new comment about your business is posted. You can also buy or download more complicated software. It is a good idea to follow your competitor’s reviews as well as your own. If a similar business in your area is getting positive reviews, it is going to undercut your clients.

Responding to reviews is generally a good idea, whether they are positive or negative and any justified complaint definitely deserves an explanation. Avoid being defensive; instead accept the comment as constructive criticism. Take responsibility for the problem, explain what went wrong and how you plan to fix the issue in the future. This helps to show you take your clients’ opinions seriously and want to do the best you can. Even if your response doesn’t change the opinion of the original client, others who read the review later will respect your conscientious attitude. Keep your tone professional and avoid getting into an angry back and forth, however the client responds.

Creating more Positive Reviews

Counterintuitively, the best solution to an online review problem is to get more reviews. If everyone leaves a comment, most will be positive, however, when only those who have a negative experience write a review, well, we know what happens. Here are a few suggestions to encourage positive testimonials from your clients:

  • Automatic survey – A short multiple choice survey followed by a comment section is easy to answer and the results will be private to start with. You can post positive statistics from the survey on your website. If customers leave personal feedback make sure you ask for permission before sharing it as a review.
  • Send an Automatic Review Reminder – This is another good way to let clients know you care about their opinions. Automatic review requests will up your overall review numbers so one or two negative comments will be less likely to affect your average.
  • Create an incentive – Organize a contest for clients who respond to your request for a testimonial. You can ask for a short description or a picture of how they use your product and what your business means to them. Give away free or discounted services as a prize and encourage participants to follow you and learn the results on social media. This will help you gain followers, as well as give you more genuine positive comments to use on your website and review pages. Make sure to ask for permission before publishing anything, especially an image or video.

Remember there is no way to create a positive online reputation overnight. It is something that can only be built slowly over time. But actively promoting positive comments, whilst at the same time developing a good sense of how to respond to negative ones, will get your business off to a good start.

Click here for more information on how to turn negative reviews into an asset.

6 Ways to Reduce Negative Comments About Your Business

Public relations crises happen. It’s not possible to please everyone all the time and every business will eventually face someone who is unhappy. Unfortunately many disgruntled customers voice their feelings in a manner that can threaten to damage the company’s reputation permanently, including publishing negative comments online.

There are ways to reduce the number of dissatisfied clients and negative comments in any business. Basically, providing good service will make your customers happy and keep negative publicity from becoming an endemic problem. Additionally, how you respond to criticism can decide whether it turns into a major or a minor issue. This isn’t a substitute for the kind of online reputation management we do at ReputationDefender ®, but it will make it much easier to get your online publicity back on track with minimal effort.

Here are six specific ways to increase client satisfaction.

  • Respond in a timely manner

    The majority of customer complaints are due to slow response times. If a client sends an email and three days later they haven’t heard from you, they’re likely to take to the internet in frustration. You can avoid this by setting clear guidelines for response times. 24-48 hours is appropriate depending on your email volume, but make sure this is clearly indicated next to your contact information. A simple response indicating the email is being processed can help let customers know they are a priority. On social media, customers expect an even quicker answer. 1 hour to be exact.

  • Practice good communication

    Responding to your customer’s needs will facilitate every type of interaction. This includes effective communication, whether it’s online or in person. Good listening is a skill that is typically thought of in terms or personal relationships, but it’s just as necessary in a business setting. Active listening will help to build trust by making the client feel you care. You’ll also be able to tailor your services more specifically to their needs. Building a strong communication platform at the beginning of the relationship will make it easier to handle difficult issues as the work progresses.

  • Use every day language

    The client enlisted your services in a specialist area because they lack this expertise themselves. If you use jargon and acronyms specific to your field, they’ll likely feel confused about what you really mean. Speaking plain English whenever possible will help the client understand what you are doing. It’s important to sound knowledgeable, but avoid talking down to a client. Remember they are also an expert in their own field.

  • Meet deadlines

    There’s really no good reason for missing a deadline after the fact. If the timeline for resolving an issue becomes impossible, this should be communicated to a client well beforehand. Describe what happened that made the work take longer and set a more reasonable deadline.

  • Take responsibility

    Blaming a specific employee or team won’t clear your company’s reputation since you hired and trained these people. It’s better to present a united front and let the company as a whole take responsibility for the issue. A general statement indicating that internal changes are being made to address the issue is appropriate, but clients don’t need to know the specifics of who’s at fault.

  • Don’t get angry at negative comments

    Your business is personal but keeping a cool head is essential. If a customer is posting negative comments to simply antagonise you, it is better to not take the bait. Social media fails and wins have massive potential to go viral so proceed carefully. If you have done all you can and feel that you aren’t getting anywhere in your attempts to make amends, avoid escalation by disengaging from the argument.

    You can now read Reputation Defender’s new blog post on the importance of online reviews and learn how positive online feedback can help to promote your business.

In the middle of a reputation crisis? Call us:

UK E-mail: uksales@reputationdefender.com

Tel: (+44) 800 131 0700

US E-mail: support@reputationdefender.com

Tel: (888) 851-9609

Everything You Need to Know About ORM for Schools

Recently, many schools have realized how important their Online Reputation is. Nowadays the pretty brochure or the neat website are not enough for parents when it comes to choosing the right school for their children. Keeping a clean reputation has become a fundamental priority for schools that want to rank well in search engines, get more students and keep the ones they already have.

Reputation Defender knows that this whole idea about keeping a positive reputation may sound simple, but in reality, schools often have a hard time with online reviews and social media posts. It is very important to pay attention to this issue since the internet is incredibly slow to forget. It does not matter if a school was involved with a drunk teacher scandal 10 years ago, probably parents are going to find this information anyway in Google.

Parents Googling for the worst

Most consumers are constantly Googling everything. If someone wants to know if a specific product is trustworthy, then it will Google it.

With schools and parents, it is the same thing. Parents act like picky consumers who fear for their children’s proper education and safety. They scrutinize everything about the prospective school– and when we say everything, it is EVERYTHING. They manage themselves to find long-forgotten information about it and base their decisions on this kind of old data.

If your school is not using any kind of SEO service, the chances of search engines showing negative information about it are definitely higher. Parents will easily find something dirty ranking higher than other positive reviews about your school. This happens because there are always a few bad stories that remain just because they were absorbed by years of 24-hour news feeds fed by incessantly curious and gossipy parents.

Misunderstandings, upset parents arguing with the principal and politically incorrect teachers, are on top of the subjects that most parents Google. Needless to say that most of these subjects probably were poorly treated by the press, and what could have been a simple situation between a student and its teacher, was sensationalized, twisted, exaggerated and manipulated in a way the media could get a shocking headline perfect for attracting more clicks from the already concerned parents.

Beware of Negative Reviews

The old bad press is only one of your concerns as a school trying to keep a clean Online Reputation. A matter that schools should as well keep in mind is online reviews.

There are a few websites where parents can find online reviews written by others, such as greatschools.org or schooldigger.com. On these websites, people can leave their reviews on the selected school platform. Positive reviews rank well on search engines and can help your school build a strong reputation. On the other hand, negative reviews will definitely destroy your school’s reputation in minutes if you don’t take care of them.

If a school wants to build a strong reputation, it should use an ORM services like Google Alerts that can help it detect when a bad review is posted. As most of the websites where people can rank schools have forums, schools can engage in an open dialog with upset parents and try to solve every single one of their complaints.

Let’s keep in mind that some forums allow users to leave anonymous comments. These comments also need to be taken care of by using an ORM advisor who can tell the school whether it is or not a good to delete a negative comment.

Image courtesy of jdog90 at Flickr.com
Image courtesy of jdog90 at Flickr.com

Students and Social Media

Another important issue to keep in mind in order for schools to have a positive Online Reputation are student posts in social media. This matter can be quite delicate since high school students can be rebel teenagers wanting to gain some popularity among their peers.

Students can create fake accounts and post mischievous content about your school, leading to gossip and misinformation. Fake twitter or Facebook accounts are a quite common tool for students to make fun of their school’s teachers or kitchen lady.

This is probably the riskiest item for schools’ ORM since they are dealing with teenagers and there is virtually nothing that can be done or said to solve this issue besides also using Social Media to minimize the negative impact of the students’ behavior.

What to do then?

Luckily for schools, there are many ORM vendors willing to study their situation and help them out with their reputation management. Some ideal solutions would be to launch multiple websites with highly positive content about the school, make sure all social media profiles are coherent, and get the school in the spotlight for something everyone can be proud of. In the end, good news can go viral and could be very beneficial for schools with reputation issues.