In an online world, reputation management is key

A company’s brand and its reputation are two of its most valuable — and vulnerable — assets. And while protecting and managing both brand and reputation are vital to a company’s health, brand and reputation are not one and the same.

Reputation is a concept that focuses on the customer, for sure. But it also focuses on the credibility and respect that a company has among other stakeholders, such as employees, investors and journalists as well as customers, according to an article in the MIT Sloan Management Review.

In today’s internet world with online reviews, customers’ views carry more weight than ever. In a twist on the old adage, it takes years to build a reputation and mere seconds (and the click of a mouse) to destroy one.

Managing your reputation

Many business owners are unaware of the significant impact that online reviews can have on their businesses.

In 2012, after dining at the Boston restaurant Pigalle, an unsatisfied customer expressed her feelings on the restaurant’s Facebook page, commenting on its “horrible pumpkin pie on Thanksgiving.” Describing the entire meal as “awful,” she said she wished she had given the $200 she spent on the meal to the “homeless person outside.”

While the customer’s review of the renowned restaurant was quite harsh, Pigalle’s head chef and owner, Mike Orfaly, left a response so appalling, many believed Pigalle’s Facebook page was hacked. In a series of comments, Orfaly suggested the customer was “uneducated,” “unintelligent” and “unpolished,” and even made insulting comments about the customer’s weight.

Pigalle closed the following year.

That true story demonstrates the power of online reviews.

The numbers are in

The reason online reviews and exchanges have such powerful impact is because more people are turning to the internet as a reference. Statistics show that 97 percent of consumers searched for local businesses online and, according to Google, two out of three consumers said that positive (or negative) reviews played a major part in deciding whether to purchase a product or service.

Forty-two percent of potential clients Google the individual or business they are considering doing business with, and nearly half change their mind after reading about the individual and businesses online.

If you’re not paying attention to your reviews, it’s time to start.

Review your reviews

It’s critical for companies to respond to both positive and negative reviews in a timely manner, and not just because encouraging engagement increases your chances of appearing at the top of a Google search.

A simple “thank you” can go a long way to acknowledge positive reviews. When customer leaves a negative review, listen, apologize and take the conversation offline. Responding to both types of messages demonstrates that you’re listening and that you really do care and appreciate their patronage. Think of positive and negative reviews as free market research.

Happy customers equal more business

Responding to online reviews is a great strategy for lead conversion, gaining returning customers and building brand awareness. Simply put, managing your online reputation is more critical than ever and will ignite your business and build serious growth.

 

Kelly Borth is CEO and chief strategy officer for GREENCREST, a 27-year-old brand development, strategic and online marketing and public relations firm that turns market players into industry leaders™. Kelly is one of 35 certified brand strategists in North America and works with companies to establish brands and build brand value for their businesses.