Online Reputation and the Quest for Trust

November 02 / Chair 10 Marketing Team / filed under Reputation Management

According to Yelp, some 135 million reviews have been published on the public opinion website since its inception in 2005. While many of those write-ups are undoubtedly chock full of glowing words extolling the virtues of everything from stellar customer service to a mouthwatering example of coq au vin, other consumers aren’t so generous with their praise. Companies both large and small are routinely inundated with subpar reviews that critique daily operations, employee attitudes, and the quality of a business’s product. How do online reviews affect your company’s bottom line and overall reputation? The ripples in the water can reach far and wide.

When Yelp Really Matters

Google Reviews, Facebook, Angie’s List, Foursquare, TripAdvisor, Yelp, HomeAdvisor, UberConsumerReports, Yahoo! Local Listings – the opportunities to spread your opinion are practically endless these days and consumers are taking full advantage of their unprecedented power. Reading these reviews gives us all a chance to make informed decisions but for businesses, a simple one-star drop in average rating can translate to as much as a 9% decrease in revenue. Complaints dent a potential customer’s trust and even if they do decide to visit your business they’re primed to expect less and likely to complain more.

Poor standing – even if it’s mostly perception rather than a reflection of reality – is damaging. The key is responding to unfavorable scrutiny the following ways:

  • Be understanding and acknowledge any systemic failures. People want sympathy not excuses.
  • If possible, offer to make it right.
  • Outline how you’re going to prevent reoccurrences of the issue in the future.
  • Don’t fight. It only makes you look petty and any positive media attention will be counterbalanced by increasing wariness on the part of the public.

What to Do When Nobody’s Talking

At least a bad review is open to interpretation. When a dissatisfied customer leaves a one-star rating and rails about a taco shop’s lack of ketchup packets or a design firm’s unwillingness to redo a project two years after the initial contract, it’s easy for the reader to read between the lines and dismiss insanity as just that – a ridiculous grab for attention or a freebie. When a business has no reviews, however, it’s like having no credit. There’s nothing for anyone to go on and nobody likes flying blind. If you’re a new business or an established one just learning about the importance of a positive online reputation, building a system that encourages online customer reviews can be a major step towards fostering consumer trust.

The Danger of Internal Reviews

Review sites aren’t just for customer-led venting anymore, either. CareerLeakGlassdoor, and other employee-oriented sites give current and former workers an opportunity to write businesses based on everything from interview questions to HR practices. If your business is competing against competitors to acquire top talent, a disgruntled employee’s claims of mistreatment or overdue wages can be devastating. One survey of jobseekers found that nearly half had used Glassdoor as part of their job search. As a business, that means your weak points are potentially receiving a lot of exposure.

Unlike Yelp, Glassdoor and the like don’t always let corporations respond to negative employee reviews but you can nip discontent in the bud by giving employees other ways to vent. Conduct exit interviews and regularly ask for feedback via employee surveys (they can be conducted electronically and anonymously as needed).

 

A staggering 92% of consumers read online reviews before deciding which business to patronize. What are those assessments – are your very public responses to them – saying about you? Locating and listening to customer and client feedback is an essential part of moving your business forward. If you keep a finger on the pulse and respond thoughtfully, your reputation is bound to benefit.