No business wants to ever be embroiled in a situation that is not only negative in nature but also viral, and has long-term impact on revenue and brand perception.
What we mean is… no one wants to be Amy’s Baking Company. (That was crazy.)
Unfortunately, nobody is immune to shortcomings in service, procedural failures, and operational disasters. Whether the situation was theoretically under your control or completely impossible to avoid, the results tend to be the same.
When a business organization or enterprise fails to deliver per its own standards as presented through the marketing pitch, customers are disappointed, frustrated, and feel cheated.
The impact of negative customer experience on brand reputation
When this happens – and unless the organization is quick to respond, has early-assessment surveys in place, and has empowered its personnel to be proactive in delivering better customer experience – you can expect to see a torrent-like flow of negative and potentially destructive feedback on online channels and review sites like Yelp, Facebook, Insider Pages, Google, TripAdvisor, what-have-you.
In direct contrast to the way we used to market in the past, much of the messaging associated with your business is now outside your control, and it often feels like you are helpless in bringing order to the chaos of online review sites and customer experience forums.
If this is your current conundrum, then we want to take a moment to guide you as you face one of the most challenging marketing dilemmas of the decade. Grab a chair as we explore basic steps to bring back order and control as you implement processes aimed at tackling the issues at hand, while setting the stage for a sustainable, long-term reputation management plan.
Fix only what you know
If you see one or two bad reviews conveying issues with the potential of escalating into a full-blown communications or PR crisis, then don’t react immediately.
Step back and assess the situation at an operational level, and spend time looking at the overall impact to all your third-party review site profiles.
If you are already using a brand reputation and review monitoring platform, then you should have a clear picture of the severity of the issue at hand. If you suspect that the problem may have escalated to the point of becoming viral or hitting the press, then conduct a thorough search using the most important search engines, and document the channels that are reporting on the customer experience issue.
The way you move forward will be determined by the severity and nature of the issue, and whether it could potentially have legal implications. When you are exclusively dealing with image and branding concerns, there are multiple approaches that you can take, from upping the ante and offering creative collective remedy, to adding some humor to the situation and trying to combat viral with viral.
Nip the problem in the bud
Don’t assume that the problem will simply disappear by taking online actions like responding to reviews or asking for review removals.
If the slew of negative reviews is rooted in short-changing your customers at an experiential level, or a negative event beyond your control, then it is still up to you to right the wrong by taking concrete measures that fix the problem, not only for the offended parties but also for all customers going forward.
Your customers and potential customers will cut you a break if the problem appears to be an exception to the rule and does not go on for a long period of time. On the other hand, if the issue becomes a pattern that shows up sporadically in your online profiles, then chances are the trust and loyalty of your current customers will be compromised, and the credibility of your brand for future potential customers will diminish.
Consider a press release
Did you mess up in a big way and you want to make it right? Involve your PR department, and make sure not only those affected but also the community are aware of the nature of the problem, the implications, and the steps your organization is taking to make things right.
A well-crafted press release is very powerful when it comes to ensuring there is information available to demonstrate your commitment to doing business in a way that is constructive, customer-oriented, and sensitive to the needs of your community and segment.
Address affected customers individually
Strong, credible, and loyalty-heavy businesses are created one customer at a time.
If you are facing a torrent of negative reviews, then it may be tempting to craft a blanket answer and deal with the customers as a collective. Don’t do it.
Every single customer deserves the respect of a personalized engagement that attempts to see the issue from his or her perspective. While remedies might be similar, take the time to address each reviewer by name, and highlight specifics that respond to the details conveyed in their review.
Find temporary, alternative lead generation sources
If your business has been depending on the leads and visibility garnered through review sites like Yelp, and you happen to suffer a hit that impacts your cumulative score, then chances are your overall convertible leads will drop.
This might be the perfect time to allocate marketing dollars to more aggressive marketing and advertising approaches to help you bring customers in the door. This will provide you and your team with the opportunity to delight your newly acquired customers.
Hopefully, a superior experience will convert into an increased number of positive reviews. In the long run, they will balance out the impact of your crisis, and provide consumers using review sites to make their purchasing decisions with a more updated narrative of what you truly have to offer.
Consider revising your value proposition
Upward price elasticity is directly proportional to the perceived quality of your goods and services.
If you are hit with a drop in your cumulative score across all third-party review sites, then consider temporarily revising your price structure in order to attract customers on the basis of value. Once you have the opportunity to have a first engagement with a customer who selected your venue purely based on value, you can then focus on exceeding expectations in order to foster loyalty and word-of-mouth referrals.
At ReviewTrackers, we are firm believers that proactive, preventative measures are the best and most sustainable approach to reputation and review management. Let us work with you to understand your needs, and deliver a solution that puts you in control of the direction of your online reputation. Request a demo of ReviewTrackers today.