Today’s small business owners face unique challenges that businesspeople of yesteryear never had to confront. While the internet has made it possible for even the smallest businesses to have a global footprint, it’s also forced business owners to devote substantial time to managing their online reputations.
A company’s online reputation can have a major impact on its ability to survive and thrive. In its 2018 “Local Consumer Review Survey,” BrightLocal, a United Kingdom-based company that focuses on the needs of digital marketing agencies and local businesses, found that 91 percent of consumers between the ages of 18 and 34 trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations. In addition, the survey found that 57 percent of consumers won’t use a business that has a star rating of fewer than four stars.
The BrightLocal survey underscores the effort small business owners must put into managing their companies’ online reputations. Whether business owners feel their online reputations are warranted or not, ignoring them can greatly affect their bottom lines. The following are a handful of simple ways business owners can manage their companies’ online reputations in the hopes of benefitting their businesses and expanding their customer base.
• Don’t ignore negative reviews. Small Biz Ahead, a service from the insurance provider The Hartford that aims to help business owners manage and grow their businesses, advises business owners to acknowledge negative reviews. Respond privately to customers, apologizing for their unsatisfactory experience and thanking them for their feedback. When communicating with customers, always keep these communications friendly and constructive. Dismissive, confrontational and/or rude interactions with customers will only further damage your online reputation.
• Actively monitor your reputation. Websites such as Yelp and Google, via its Google Reviews capability, give customers plenty of places to go to share their comments about your business. Stay up-to-date on these, making a concerted effort to monitor your reputation. If you’re open for business seven days a week, chances are customers will be reviewing your business seven days a week. Reach out to customers who had negative experiences as soon as possible, and report any comments you feel violate websites’ standards the moment you see them.
• Don’t hesitate to ask customers to edit their reviews. When you successfully reach out to customers who left negative reviews, don’t hesitate to ask them to consider editing their reviews. Many customers are happy to update their reviews if issues were promptly and successfully addressed.
Online reputation management is important for today’s business owners. Though managing online reputations can seem like a full-time job, a positive reputation can greatly benefit your bottom line.