Everyone makes mistakes! Maybe your customers received a product that was damaged during transit, or maybe, your brand’s customer care lines were down and someone could not access the help they needed. Even a mis-Tweet from one of the employees can spark controversy on the web. Unfortunately, there is no “delete” button for these incidents. Once something goes on the web, it stays there forever. One negative review can cost you around 30 potential subscribers and buyers! That can translate to hundreds of thousands of dollars or even millions, depending on the enormity of your operations.
Is it justifiable for someone to discuss your brand for millions to see? Is there some secret “hide” or “delete” option that can remove these negative comments/reviews from the public eye? Scandals follow million-dollar corporations, but, somehow, they always manage to come out at the top. How do they overpower the negative reviews and divert their consumers’ attention towards new products, offers or services? How do they take control of their brand’s reputation despite slanderers trying hard to tarnish their reputation?
Finding answers to these critical questions can help you determine how you can repair your brand image.
Take a more proactive stance:
Did you know? Only around 58% of brands think about managing their online reputation proactively and only 15% of those brands take measures to manage it. That gives you ample opportunities to gain an edge over your competitors, who are still struggling with negative reviews, low conversion rates, and unhappy consumers. Your target consumer is likely to trust online reviews 12-times more than any sponsored product descriptions. You need to expand your presence to review platforms that your consumers trust, including Yelp (20%), Facebook (20%), Trip Advisor (11%), Yellow Pages (10%), Better Business Bureau (15%) and GMB (16%). Make sure you have active and regularly updated profiles on these platforms. You must know that when a business doesn’t have an account on Yelp or Yellow Pages, its customers can still rate and review them. You should always claim your business profile to ensure accurate information. Besides, claiming your account will allow you to track new reviews including the negative ones that can harm your reputation.
Capitalize your customer’s loyalty:
Reviewers have all the power these days. So, why wait for the negative reviews to rob you of your profits when you can request your satisfied customers to share their experience?
The only way to counter negative reviews and poor ratings is by burying them in genuine positive reviews. Motivate your dedicated customers to share their honest reviews about your products and services. It is simple statistics – when you have enough positive reviews, the negative reviews become difficult to find on a forum. Apart from that, you get a good idea about what your customers love about your brand and which aspects require immediate improvement. You can think about pampering your customers with discount coupons for their honest reviews. It is a risky process since Google, Yelp and BBB have strict guidelines for incentivized reviews. However, if you sell on Amazon, or Etsy, offering rewards against genuine reviews (positive, neutral or negative) can work in your favor. If you don’t want to take the risk, a gentle reminder via SMS or email after the customer’s purchase can urge an honest review from them. At a physical store, you can request consumers to fill out handouts at the POS.
It is indescribably difficult to remove reviews from Yellow Pages and Yelp.
Have a damage control plan in place:
Negative reviews can hit online merchants and enterprises anytime. To restrict the primary damage, you need an emergency plan that is always ready for deployment. The first step of this plan is to not feel the fire. Replying to a negative comment with a fervor of defensive arguments can make matters worse. A well-thought-out plan for reputation crisis management typically involves understanding the points the reviewer has raised, speaking to your PR team and customer care executives regarding the issue and research the reviewer’s reviewing trends across multiple websites/forums. There are serial negative reviewers, who post fake reviews in the hope of receiving free goodies and refunds. If you have encountered such an individual, you need to alert the review platform or Google. You can flag fake reviews and request Google for their removal from GMB. When the review is tarnishing but true, becoming defensive makes matters worse. You need to research your facts and see if you can appease your reviewer with a heartfelt apology, and an offer for a refund. Around 44% of negative reviewers state that they are more than happy to shop from the same brand and change their reviews after they receive a genuine apology.
Invest in website SEO and the maintenance of subpages:
SEO helps your brand and website remain visible during related Google searches. Controlling your position on the search engine results page (SERP) can be tricky unless you have a dedicated SEO and IT team working on your keyword strategies. Apart from updating your keyword strategy and improving your content game, you will need to consider adding new pages, and fresh blogs that have your brand name on them. Creating high-quality subpages on your domain can increase the visibility of the content you want your visitors cum potential customers to see, but reduce the visibility of the negative results. While you are working on your site, think about removing a couple of sponsored ads that crowd your pages. Irrespective of what you think, your visitors strongly dislike ads that suddenly pop-up when they are trying to read or watch something. Remove the disruptive advertisements to improve your customer experience. Investing in web experience is another way to reduce the probability of receiving negative reviews. In fact, if you have been garnering a poor repute in recent times, maybe take out an hour to audit your website! Optimize those slow-loading pages, update your content, and in general, make your website appear like it belongs to a business that cares for its customers.
Respond to customer complaints publicly:
More than 71% of social media users who have had a positive experience with a brand on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter are highly likely to recommend the brand to their friends and family. So, when customers post complaints on a brand’s social media page, third-party listing site or website, it is the brand’s responsibility to note the details of the piece carefully. You cannot go ahead and refute every point the customer makes, for one simple reason – “the customer is always right!” Instead, you need to reply with politeness, empathy, and facts. If you do not have the facts, like their date and time of visit, the product they are talking about, and the executives they spoke to, ask him/her for the details. Most genuine reviewers are more-than-happy to help with these details. Try to restrict the conversation on one platform, since switching to email or encrypted messaging will prevent other users from viewing the resolution process. Your old and new buyers need to know that their brand cares about their experience. Resolving a complaint should not expose a customer’s privacy or personal details, but make your irate buyer happy and satisfied in the end.
Use branded user-generated content:
You can post user-generated content via your social media accounts and on your blog. While you would need permission from your users/followers to repost their images or content, the case is different when they are participants in quizzes or competitions you have launched on the platform. You may have come across highly successful social media campaigns by Target, Starbucks and Burberry that created a flurry of user-generated content. Tourism Queensland drew out responses from more than 34,000 people from 200 countries in the form of videos for a job in a dream destination. It would be foolish to think that people do not have complaints regarding Starbucks, Burberry or Tourism Queensland, but you will rarely come across the negative comments when you search by their brand name or their services on Google. Urging your dedicated followers on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter to submit unique posts as a part of a digital campaign, complete with branded hashtags and brand handles might just help you drown the online negativity that is rising around your brand. The biggest secret of good reputation management is paying attention to your buyers. Your reviewers are individuals and, most of the time, all they want is for someone to lend an ear to their problems. You need more than social media listening tools and a Google Analytics account to manage your brand reputation on the web. You need a dedicated team that can monitor your brand mentions on listing sites and review sites, a standardized response system, and disaster management strategy, a digital campaign for managing user-generated reviews, a working SEO plan and a more proactive take on reputation management.