Not long ago, we had the opportunity to chat with a friend who had taken over a business that had been struggling operationally. The infamous “Under New Management” sign went up, and with it he was tasked with making the necessary changes to turn the boat around. Being a practical man with significant experience in management, he was quick to identify key issues and put a plan in place to solve them in a customer-sensitive fashion.
As he audited each aspect of the business, he quickly realized that along with making radical changes to the way business was conducted, he also needed to do something about the online business reputation of his new shop. After all, a good number of his leads were likely to originate from Web searches. To aid him in tackling this task, we put together these ten steps that we hope will guide him and many others facing similar challenges.
1. Make a Search-Based Assessment
You can only fix that which you know is broken. The first step toward turning around your online reputation is to understand what shoppers see when they conduct an online search specifically for your business by name, or a keyword-based search using terms relevant to the products, services, or niches covered by your business.
For example, if you are an Italian restaurant, then you want to know who is showing first, second, and third when someone enters the keyword “Italian restaurant” in search engines like Google or Yahoo. Knowing where you fall for niche searches and what shows up when shoppers search for you will give you a better understanding as to why customers are choosing to patronage or avoid your venue.
2. Evaluate Key Review Sites
For the majority of brick and mortar businesses, review sites generate a significant portion of their traffic. If you have been brought in to correct offline and online reputation and business processes issues, then take a moment to fully assess top review sites for your segment, and document the state of affairs.
Use your current scores and review volume as a baseline and starting point as you embark on a reputation-building mission. While analyzing the data available on review sites, take a moment to understand which sites are most likely to generate the greatest amount of business leads.
For example, if you are in the hospitality segment, spending time and effort learning about TripAdvisor is likely to be a smart move. (Check out: “8 Terrific TripAdvisor Tips for Businesses”)
3. Document and Correct Trending Issues
Go beyond simply knowing your scores or star ratings, and take a deeper look at what customers have voiced in the past. Try to identify recurring issues and trends, and isolate individual employees who may need retraining. When assessing your review history, you may not want to go beyond one to two years of historical data. Anything older than two years may no longer be reflective of current issues and current staffing.
Once you have identified key issues affecting the customer experience, draft revised standard operational procedures aimed at fixing the root of each problem. As soon as you have implemented a change, begin tracking customer perception and refine your approach until new reviews reflect excellence in product and service delivery.
4. Learn from the Leader
Take a moment to study what drives superior ratings and excellent reviews on the profiles of your competitors. Notate behaviors, products, and promotions, as well as review interactions such as review responses likely to trigger five-star ratings or highly positive reviews. When and if applicable, seek to duplicate behaviors conducive to improved popularity and increased review scores.
5. Take Over Your Review Profiles
It is entirely possible that prior management teams have, up until the date you took over, neglected the online-reputation management of your business. If your business has never been proactive in the management of online reviews, then it is not too late to begin.
Taking ownership of your profiles on popular review sites will allow you to enhance your online presence and engage in a two-way conversation with your reviewers and potential customers. Taking over your review-site profiles is perhaps the most important step you can take toward turning around a blemished online reputation.
6. Establish a Review Management Routine
When it comes to effective online reputation management, consistency is the key. Establish a routine and standards that will guide how you engage with review sites and reviewers. Consider including a service-level agreement, guidelines related to brand voice, and a tiered remediation guide to ensure customers perceive equanimity as part of your overall message. Make it a point to check reviews in real time or on regular intervals to ensure matters are addressed in a timely and professional manner.
7. Improve Your Multimedia
A photo speaks a thousand words, and videos speak even more. Many studies have pointed out that shoppers are more likely to patronize businesses with profiles that include high-quality multimedia. Put your best foot forward by ensuring your photos and videos are great visual ambassadors for your brand. Outdated, bad quality, or otherwise negative photos are bad for business. Always counteract a negative photo posted by a reviewer with the positive side of the product or service in question. As for videos, make them short and sweet, and focus on what matters most: delivering a value proposition to shoppers strong enough to persuade them to give your business a try.
8. Revise Your Site and Align Your Messaging Across All Channels
One of the most common reasons for a negative review is expectations not met. When trying to correct a damaged or weak online reputation, it is essential to spend time in ensuring there is alignment in your messaging across all media.
Revise your site content and review profiles to make sure you are conveying exactly what you are able to deliver, no more, no less. This is of particular importance with documents such as menus likely to cause a great deal of frustration if the customer does not have the option to order items featured online. That alone can result in a negative review.
9. Craft Review Generation Strategies
When attempting to improve the online reputation of a business, a management team must seek to increase their reviews qualitatively and quantitatively. Better scores are only good if the business is securing them at an accelerated pace. The only way to correct a poor-rating average is by implementing programs aimed at generating positive new reviews. Explore options such as review encouragement on sites that permit and encourage such activities, or promos aimed at improving the perception of value and triggering shout-outs from your most loyal customers.
10. Implement a Holistic Reputation Management Plan
This is the most important part of turning the ship around. A company that aspires to improve and maintain a superior online reputation must put in place the tools and procedures needed to take a look at the big picture and track trends across all review sites. Review Trackers, combined with disciplined in-house processes can holistically tackle a weak or declining online reputation. Sign up for a free trial today and set a little time aside to learn and review best practices of what it takes to be a superior reviews and reputation manager.