Christopher Thompson's Closing the Deal: Managing your reputation is critical in the online worldBy CHRISTOPHER THOMPSON
December 30. 2017 6:49PM
When it comes to making purchasing decisions, consumers and buyers within organizations routinely rely on online reviews to see what others are saying about a company and its products and services.
Unfortunately for businesses, the list of places where people can review them is long and continues to grow.
There's Google, Facebook, Yelp, Glassdoor and a slew of other sites that companies really have to pay close attention to in order to keep up with feedback people are leaving. It can be overwhelming, and it's critical to have a strategy on how you will manage it. If you're wondering how important online reviews are for your business, take into account that the Pew Research Center determined in a recent study that 82 percent of adults say they at least sometimes read online customer ratings. Based on what we have seen and know, that number will likely continue to grow.
I find myself reading online reviews more and more. Of course I look at reviews of products on Amazon and other places before I buy, but I also like to look at reviews of companies. Glassdoor is one of my favorites, and it's a great site to get an inside view of a company by reading reviews from current and former employees.
One of the obvious challenges with online reviews is how to handle people who post negative reviews. Two things are certain on most of the sites: You can't control what people write, and you can't control what review stays and what review goes. Some of the sites have a process for a review to be disputed, but good luck trying to take down a legitimately negative review.
With the use of online reviews continuing to grow, it's important for businesses to have a well-thought-out strategy on how to handle and manage the internet's word of mouth. Here are a few suggestions.
Someone needs to own it
Someone in your organization has to be responsible for managing online reviews. For most companies, it's someone within the marketing department. Regardless of who it is, someone needs to constantly monitor the various review sites, capture the feedback and communicate what is going on to the people within the organization who need to know.
There are also software programs and companies that do this, so if you have dollars to invest, it's definitely worth doing some research.
Respond to all negative reviews
It doesn't matter how great your company is or how talented your employees are. You'll eventually have customers who aren't happy, and they'll take to the internet to write a negative review.
The most important thing a company can do in this situation is to respond to the negative review. And the response should be timely, address the concerns, and most importantly, show the world how you handle these types of situations.
Showing how you address concerns will often minimize the impact of the negative review. Most reasonable people recognize that you can't please everyone.
Not having a reasonable number of reviews can actually be worse than having too many negative reviews. People want to see what others think, and if they see a lack of reviews, that can cause concern and skepticism.
Develop a process that proactively sends out communications encouraging customers to leave reviews after they have made a purchase. The great thing about this is you can push customers to specific sites that matter most to your business. For example, Yelp is big in the restaurant world, while Google or LinkedIn may be a more logical place to direct business-to-business customers.
Managing online reviews isn't easy, but it doesn't have to be overly complex. The most important thing to showcase is that your business cares, is active online and most importantly, takes time to thoughtfully respond when people aren't happy.
Christopher Thompson (firstname.lastname@example.org) is the vice president of business development at Talient Action Group in Manchester and writes Closing the Deal weekly for the Sunday News.