We are both business owners and customers to other businesses. Think back to some of your favorite places – how did you first hear about them? What is it that makes that business special enough for you to return to again and again? What do you tell others about that business, whether in person or online?
“Word of Mouth” was — and will always be — the best form of advertising. Today, word-of-mouth goes beyond the personal human one-to-one sharing, as review sites are now considered ‘word-of-mouth’ advertising, especially for Millennials and those who prefer mobile interaction with their smartphone instead of actually speaking to another human. This has opened up an entirely new and important world for business owners which goes beyond yelp or other review sites — this new and important business function is known as Reputation Management.
What Is Reputation Management?
Basically, it’s taking an active role in the conversations that are being shared by your customers, starting with the moment they call or contact your business to when they first enter your location or website, and then what they say afterwards online to others — all on a daily basis.
It’s recommended that you keep on top of what’s being said about your business, and you can begin to do this for free by enabling Google Alerts, which continuously monitors the internet for new content about your company. You and your employees should also be regularly visiting review sites such as Angie’s List, TripAdvisor and Yelp, to see what your customers are seeing, reading prior customer reviews of your business.
Which means that everyone in your company needs to be aware and focused on providing the best in communications and customer service. Even if you have an employee that’s engaging with a customer via an online chat feature, or via email, the same amount of skill and courtesy are necessary as if they were engaged with that customer in person. This means that it’s best to have a company culture devoted to providing the best in customer service, whether in person, online, before a purchase and after a purchase.
How To Embrace Review Sites
There are many wonderful things about credible review sites. When your business is being talked about and written about on Instagram, TripAdvisor, Angie’s List and yelp, this actually can help your website perform better in search rankings, especially if your business is highly rated by people saying great things about you. Google’s algorithms reward this online ‘word-of-mouth’ and gives your business a search advantage over your competitors who may not be reviewed as highly as your business.
Love it or hate it, yelp has pioneered the online review world, and though there are some customers who will threaten you with a bad review if you don’t give in to their demands — you never want to have the conversation even get to that point! Being able to truly be in touch with your customers, and knowing how they genuinely feel about your business, allows you to encourage them to leave a positive review about their experience and your business.
A typical business hears from only 4% of its dissatisfied customers. You actually want to hear from them before they post any negative reviews online, or tell other potential customers, or both — so that you can fix the problem. Call it human nature, but twice as many people are told about a bad customer service than are told about good customer service (according to the White House Office of Consumer Affairs). You can’t afford to have a large number of dissatisfied customers who post negative reviews about your business.
Ron Kustek is a business instructor at Cabrillo College.