Your online reputation matters now more than ever. The COVID-19 pandemic significantly shifted customer expectations, and in turn, businesses have been tasked with meeting those new expectations. Businesses in every vertical have been tasked with adapting and working to protect their online reputation, understanding their customers’ challenges, and mining for common sentiment to improve their operations. Taking the time to truly understand customer concerns and leading with empathy has become common practice.
Your online reputation management strategy likely looks different from a year ago. For most brands, it likely looks drastically different from a few years ago prior to the pandemic. Tailoring your customer service strategy across all channels is key to retaining and gaining happy customers.
Recently, we were joined by a panel of online reputation management experts to help us discuss how to create an exceptional online brand presence by building your online reputation.
Our webinar panel included:
- Karen Pace, Director of Social and Content Marketing at Randstad US
- Nigel Atkinson, Account Director at Rio SEO
- Scott McNulty, Regional Director of Sales at Rio SEO
During the webinar, they discussed how online reputation management has evolved (in just the past year!), tools and tactics for managing online reviews at scale, and how to align your reputation management strategy with emerging platforms (such as Apple Maps).
Here are 10 expert-driven recommendations shared during the webinar to elevate your reputation management strategy.
Respond to reviews quickly
As Nigel shares, customers have higher expectations now than pre-pandemic. When a dissatisfied customer shares a negative experience they’ve had with your brand, they anticipate a quick response. To create a positive brand image and experience, your support team must be prepared to respond to at least every negative review you receive. If your team has the bandwidth, it’s also beneficial to respond to positive reviews as well.
Build your social proof
75 percent of customers agree that first-party reviews are likely to influence their purchasing decision. Capitalize on positive feedback and improve your online image by extending that content. There are several ways to seamlessly integrate positive feedback naturally across your digital marketing campaigns.
For example, Karen shares Randstad US may spotlight employees who were mentioned in a positive review in internal marketing communications. Or, they may insert a positive review about how a recruiter helped someone improve their resume in the middle of a “How to write a professional resume” blog post.
Communicate the benefit of managing online reputation at scale
Budget constraints are often a hurdle for managing online reputation at scale. Showcasing the value of effectively managing your online reviews for each of your locations is critical to encourage buy-in from your internal teams. Consider how you can deliver the value of online reviews management for multiple locations. Some questions you may want to think through include:
- How do reviews work?
- What are the benefits of managing online reviews at scale?
- Why do reviews work?
- How does review management impact star ratings?
- How does review management encourage loyal customers?
Develop templated responses
As Karen shares, Randstad US developed templated responses for negative, neutral, and positive reviews. These review responses enable their customer support teams to respond quickly to reviews, while still having the flexibility to layer in personalization so customers feel they are receiving a custom response.
Randstad US makes an effort to respond to all 3-star and below reviews, but also responds to positive and neutral reviews as well. Their response time is within 3-5 business days, although Karen notes it’s often sooner.
Think of your online reputation as a component of your overall customer experience
As Karen states, review responses and review solicitation are as important as your customer support endeavors and website experience. Online reputation management is another facet of creating a positive customer experience. All these facets holistically represent your brand and are of equal importance. Karen also shares, treat it as important as your other customer experience efforts, if you overlook it, you’re not best serving your audience.
Take the conversation offline if necessary
If a review is potentially actionable or may require further escalation, invite the user to take the conversation offline. Karen shares that when a conversation may require further human intervention, Randstad US directs the reviewer to reach out to a dedicated email address.
The feedback is then routed to business owners and teams at the associated location. The reviewer, in turn, has an opportunity to have their concern addressed directly, encouraging customer loyalty and retention.
Identify and report spam reviews
The issue of receiving spam reviews is unfortunately all too common. Spam reviews likely aren’t written by your customers at all, but rather by competitors to persuade prospective customers to use their product or service instead. Spam reviews can impact your business success and average rating, and should therefore be monitored for and reported right away.
As Google states, “To ask Google to remove or delete an inappropriate review from your Business Profile, report the review.” On Yelp, click on the “flag” icon at the bottom of the review you wish to report as spam. Next, select the reason for removal. Yelp will then evaluate your request and remove the spam review for you.
Online reputation management software can also help manage and flag spam reviews on your behalf.
Consider new players like Apple Maps
Apple Maps Reviews’ ratings and photos system made its debut in the US and Canada in mid-2021. This functionality allows users to mark a thumbs up or thumbs down rating. While not as robust as Google Reviews just yet, our panel notes it’s worth monitoring your online reputation there as well as it’s another avenue for potential customers to find you.
Nigel shares that depending on the category your business selects, you may have additional attributes available for customers to leave a thumbs up or thumbs down for. For example, a reviewer has the opportunity to rate a restaurant based on their customer service, food & drink, and atmosphere. Nigel recommends businesses ensure the right primary category is selected on Apple Maps.
Respond to all reviews, if possible
A common mistake businesses make is ignoring online reviews altogether or responding only to positive reviews. We polled our audience during the webinar to find out if they currently respond to positive and negative reviews. 78 percent indicated they respond to both positive and negative reviews. 17 percent, however, indicated they do not respond to any reviews.
Consider the following review statistics:
- 50% of customers feel more confident in a business when they see the brand actively responding to reviews
- 49% typically read reviews before visiting a business nearby
- 48% say a business should respond to positive reviews
- 47% say a business should respond to negative reviews
If you don’t have a customer support representative responding to reviews, you risk extending your customer lifetime, building loyal customers, and gaining satisfied customers.
Tackle the top review sites first
Google reviews may be the dominant player in the online reputation landscape, however, there are several other key review platforms brands cannot ignore. In addition to the newer Apple Maps ratings, Nigel recommends monitoring Yelp, TripAdvisor, and Facebook as prospective customers are likely looking at your brand there as well.
Our panel agrees focusing on smaller directories isn’t as important to your overall reputation management strategy as it once was, but rather focuses on building customer loyalty on the platforms most relevant to your brand.
The next time a customer conducts a Google Search or any of the other search engines, what will they find? Online reputation management software enables you to manage your local reviews for each of your locations at scale.
Learn even more reputation-building tips for enterprise brands by downloading our free e-book.