Managing Your Business’ Online Reputation: Avoid Negative Reviews

We all know that in the business world, positive word of mouth can be worth more than the largest advertising campaign.

Conversely, negative word of mouth, if not countered properly, can derail all of your best marketing efforts.

This is why so many small businesses fervently request online reviews from their happy customers: they’re in the business of online reputation management 24-7.

Over 1 million people view tweets about customer service every week, and about 80% of those tweets are negative or critical. Ouch.

This is certainly their right as consumers, but how can small business owners prevent a few negative experiences from ruining their business’ online credentials?

For small brick-and-mortar operations just like yours, giving those unhappy customers a way to vent to you regarding their frustrations is a great way to diffuse the threat of poor online business reviews.

The Human Condition and Business Review Sites

When people encounter a stressful situation, many have a similar reaction: they like to vent.

Frustratingly, an unhappy customer will go out of their way to make disparaging comments on business review sites while satisfied customers can seem like a silent majority. This disparity can give online reviews a great deal of power.

More importantly, this impulse is becoming increasingly universal as social media use expands. So if a customer leaves your business unhappy, you are putting your business at serious risk of bad online press.

Any resultant negative business reviews has an impact on the perceptions of potential future customers, so getting ahead of that bad press is not only a savvy business move it is a critical factor in your continued success.

To get out in front of a bad review, it’s a good idea to set up a mechanism designed to collect information about your customer’s experience with your business operation.

Customer feedback surveys are the perfect mechanism designed to gather this critical information prior to them ever leaving your shop.

Since the impulse to complain is a universal among a certain segment of any population, offering your customers the opportunity to vent those complaints to you and your staff will help alleviate the desire to air their grievances online.

With a viable option to vent their dissatisfaction directly, even if anonymously, these unhappy customers are far less likely to take their grievances to a wider public audience.

The Growth of Social Media and the Need for Online Reputation Management

It is an old axiom that it takes a lifetime to build a good reputation and mere minutes to destroy one. This fact has never been truer than with the advent of social media and the growth of business review sites.

No longer are would-be consumers limited to the Better Business Bureau as a gauge to measure a local business’ reputation for excellence.

Whether hopping on FaceBook with a rant aimed at their friends and loved ones, or taking the time to sign in to business review sites like Yelp and TripAdvisor, an angry customer can have serious consequences for your business reputation.

With the ease of sliding their finger across their Smartphone, most customers can post their ire online with negative business reviews that can be posted before the customer even leaves the parking lot.

While the customer’s angst is satiated and they continue with their daily activities, their scathing comment can have long lasting impact on your business reputation.

As such, the goal is to intercept that customer, and obtain their feedback, so they can satiate that desire to complain directly at the source rather than to the wider audience that is available on social media and business review sites.

This type of feedback also creates an opportunity for managers and business owners to fix the underlying problems that led to the poor experience so other customers don’t have a similarly bad encounter.

Intercepting Bad Reviews with Customer Feedback Surveys

Sadly, the chances of pleasing every customer at every transaction are slim. But that doesn’t mean we should try, and it doesn’t mean we don’t have tools at hand to get closer to that lofty goal.

As mentioned, complaining when you have a bad day is a natural inclination, so it makes sense to start a conversation with these people with a stark conversation that will serve to meet that natural human proclivity for venting.

Customer feedback surveys are the bread and butter of getting on-the-ground information about how your customers are feeling about your business.

That being said of course, for optimum results you need to utilize best practices when crafting your feedback surveys.

Feedback Surveys that Don’t Make Things Worse

If you have ever completed a survey yourself, you know that they can be tedious affairs when they’re poorly designed.

To continue to get useful data from your customer’s survey results you should focus on crafting a short survey with open-ended questions that ask only for the information you can act on.

Making use of yes and no answers, asking only specific and pointed questions, and concentrating on only one potential issue at a time for consideration yield stronger results than vague and rambling questionnaires.

By reaching out to your customer base in this fashion, you’re showing concern for and interest in feedback before customer complaints can ever make it online for people to read at business review sites.

Using SurveyGizmo to Manage Your Business’ Online Reputation

The goal of a customer satisfaction survey should be to establish a lasting program that will continue to foster goodwill with customers and provide valuable information for company decision-making for years going forward.

When determining how, where, and when to survey your customers, plan for the long haul, not just a short term initiative.
Starting and stopping customer satisfaction efforts can do more harm than good. Your customer satisfaction program should be seen as ongoing — not just a one time event.

Using Surveys During Checkout to Prevent Bad Reviews

You can go a couple of different ways to collect customer feedback close to the moment of purchase. The one that you choose will depend on how your own checkout process works:

  1. Create mobile-compatible surveys that can integrate with your payment process on a tablet to collect feedback seamlessly during a purchase.
  2. Add a QR code to a receipt so customers can scan it and fill out a survey later at their leisure.
  3. Put a kiosk near your store’s exit so people can complete their purchase but then have a separate opportunity to vent any negative feelings before leaving the store.

Whichever method of feedback collection you choose, make sure that the surveys don’t fall into a void. Integrate with Google Sheets to update your feedback scores in real time, fire off an email to your managers or customer service team anytime you get particularly low scores, or automatically send coupons to those who complete the feedback survey.

The key is to make sure your customers are aware that their voices are being heard and their opinions acted on.

If they take the time to complete a survey to vent their negative feelings but then get no response from you, they may feel that their bad experience has just gotten worse. They may then be even more likely to spread the word via Yelp business reviews or other sites.

Leverage the Power of The Ultimate Question

Did you know you can ask a single question of a random sample of customers to get a running score of how people feel about your product or service?

Known as Net Promoter Score (NPS), this question simply asks how likely people would be to recommend you to a friend. Customers provide their answer on a scale of 0-10, and then you calculate your average to get your NPS score.

Those who give you the highest possible scores (9 or 10) are known as promoters, while the lowest answers (0-5) denote detractors. The people in the middle (6-7) are called passives.

Many companies follow this simple rating scale with a single open text question asking for any additional input.

Open text questions give people the opportunity to tell you about their experience in their own words, which is particularly important for getting actionable items for future improvement. SurveyGizmo offers you the ability to bucket these kinds of responses using open text analysis, which allows you to identify patterns and trends in the responses.

Follow up with promoters and detractors alike as quickly as possible.

Setting up your survey to alert multiple people when an NPS response comes in can ensure that someone will be available to reach out to customers within the shortest timeframe possible.

Remember, you’re in the business of online reputation management for your small business, so you want to appease detractors before they are driven to write a negative Google business review. You may also be able to drive up the number of positive reviews that you get from promoters, which can help counteract the occasional negative review.

You can even follow up with passives to see what might push them into promoter territory. Follow up questions like, “What one thing could we do to improve?” can be a great way to do achieve this goal.

Incentivize Individual Improvement

If you have individual employees who interact with customers, you are putting your online reputation in their hands on a daily basis. Hopefully you’ve made smart hiring decisions!

One way to help your individual employees help the business’s reviews is by displaying the individual NPS scores of your customer service representatives prominently and encourage individuals to work on improving their scores over time.

Make sure that your display mechanism isn’t customer facing; this can be a awkward and decrease response rates to your surveys.

If you go this route for managing your business reviews, make sure that you don’t use feedback surveys to drive salaries or performance reviews.

Tying pay to survey results leads to falsely inflated results because employees encourage customers to give them the highest possible ratings, even if that doesn’t reflect the customer’s experience. These guilt-induced surveys won’t give you the data you need, nor will they prevent negative business reviews on Yelp or Google. They haven’t given people the opportunity to vent their frustrations; they’ll still take to social media or review sites to do that.

Track Effectiveness Improvements in Preventing Negative Reviews

Once you’re gathering reviews through customer feedback surveys, you can start to measure the impact of your initiatives aimed at improving feedback by segmenting your survey reports by date.

SurveyGizmo’s sophisticated reporting options let you compare scores for a date range before those initiatives to scores after it was put in place.

If an idea doesn’t improve your overall customer satisfaction data, it’s unlikely to prevent negative online reviews either.

Keep Stakeholders Informed

Business owners are typically very busy people; they’re probably not going to remember to login and check out scores on a regularly basis. But they will probably notice a negative Yelp review right away.

Managers should be proactive in getting data in front of stakeholders before things get out of control and result in an online review that negative impacts the business’ reputation.

SurveyGizmo can schedule reports to send business owners scores of each store every week, or trigger emails based on events like particularly low or high scores. Individual customer service representatives or store managers can also be notified when they get a particularly good or bad feedback survey.

Creating this type of instant visibility can go a long way toward getting to the bottom of unfortunate customer experiences and addressing the problem before it escalates into a scathing Google review.

Online Reputation Management and the Science of Positive Business Reviews

Losing your hard won reputation owing to the failure to address dissatisfied customers in this digital age is a reality for business operations ranging from mom and pop shops to online wholesalers of handmade arts and crafts.

Your online reputation management skills have to be up to the task of not only anticipating potential problems, but acting on them before they materialize as a nasty surprise on your local business review sites.

In comparison, positive business reviews are a great way to leverage the internet to encourage traffic, so you want to use customer feedback surveys to limit the former and support the latter when it comes to managing what is being said online about your business.