MANAGING your online reputation can be a major factor in the success or failure of a small business.
“If there are bad reviews for a business consistently it can be pretty influential,” says the founder of online business review website womo.com.au, Fiona Adler.
“More and more customers are using reviews to make their decisions, so your online reputation is extremely important to manage.”
Adler says it is vital to respond appropriately to negative online reviews.
“We always encourage businesses to respond and fill in the gaps, talk about their side of the story as well,” she says.
However, she advises not to take criticism personally or respond emotionally.
“Keep the review in perspective and don’t take it to heart – remember that it’s only one person’s experience and everyone understands that things can go wrong, even for the best businesses.”
A response to a negative review should be aimed at not only winning back a disgruntled customer, but impressing the wider online audience.
“That’s a whole lot of other potential customers, so apologise and demonstrate that you care,” she says.
“Remember that potential customers will be reading your response and forming opinions based on what you do when things go wrong.”
But small businesses can also be proactive in managing their online reputation by encouraging happy customers to share their experiences.
“Just as businesses say ‘if you like us tell your friends and family’, now they can also say ‘if you like us please review us online’,” says Adler.
“What we find is that, once businesses get 10 or so positive reviews, they start to get a lot more inquiries coming in from potential customers.
“It’s a very influential way of marketing the business in a very authentic way.
“It holds a lot more weight than anything a business could actually say about themselves.”
The editor of online micro business networking community Flying Solo, Jodie McLeod, says businesses should encourage customers to do online reviews because there are many benefits.
“Firstly, good reviews stick in people’s minds more so than bad reviews, and people are more likely to share positive experiences online than negative experiences, all of which helps spread the word about your business,” she says.
“It also enables you to address customer dissatisfaction and complaints that might otherwise go undetected, which gives you an opportunity to improve your product or service.”
McLeod says businesses should never try to “sweep it under the carpet” when they get a bad review.
“Customers will notice, and that in turn will generate more negative sentiment,” she says.
“Address the negative feedback openly and honestly, without being defensive.
“One of the best shields against negative feedback online is to build an online community of supporters.