Modern consumers are smart shoppers. Thanks to the internet, they have more access to information on the web than ever. Naturally, 88% of buyers now research online before making any purchase — which means your online reputation can make or break your sales.
Online reputation management (ORM) isn’t always easy for small businesses. One mistake can lead to negative reviews that greatly impact your success. But when you get consistently great reviews — and learn from the feedback you receive — your reputation can be your brand’s biggest asset.
Here’s how you can make the most out of two crucial components to building your online reputation: reviews and feedback.
Why Do Online Reviews Matter?
Online reviews are a powerful part of your online reputation because they directly impact the majority of customers’ behavior. Nearly 95% of shoppers consult reviews before making any purchase, and simply displaying reviews can boost conversions by as much as 270%.
When your business listing has five-star reviews, you’ll earn more clicks, too. And the pricier your product is, the more your reviews can affect potential clients’ decisions.
The bottom line is, consumers want to hear real experiences from your past buyers, so they can rest assured that your product or service is worth it — or move on, if not.
Turn Reviews Into Learning Experiences
So how do you overcome the bad reviews you do receive? The key is not only crafting professional responses to reviews, but also listening to and acting on feedback. Doing so can help you:
- Avoid mistakes that can cost customers.
- Bring previously unsatisfied customers back to your business.
- Inspire reviewers to update negative reviews into positive ones.
- Create a customer experience that’s worthy of positive reviews.
Take Domino’s for example. Once criticized for poor flavor and cardboard-like crust, the company looked at patterns in its negative reviews to completely rework its product in 2009. Since then, the company’s net income has continuously grown, reaching some of its highest year-to-year increases in recent time.
Small businesses can take their positive reviews into account, too. In addition to learning from customers’ poor experiences, recognize patterns in what makes your business great and double down on those opportunities to stand out.
Seek Feedback Beyond Reviews
Feedback doesn’t just come in the form of reviews. To excel in your ORM, it’s important to proactively seek feedback and act on it in a timely manner. Consider these tactics:
- Use social listening tools to address complaints before they can go viral.
- Send out surveys via email to gather feedback and resolve poor customer experiences even before clients publicize them online.
- Chat with customers in-store (if applicable) for feedback you can instantly act on.
Getting a well-rounded view of customer opinions will help you build a stronger online reputation and a brand that inspires loyalty.
Proactively Improve the Customer Experience
It’s not enough to be reactive to feedback. Inc. Magazine estimates that it takes four five-star reviews to counteract the damage of a single one-star review — and to earn those five-star reviews, it takes about 40 great customer interactions.
To minimize the damage of bad reviews — which can occur unexpectedly — don’t simply wait for feedback to come through on its own. First, proactively review your customer experience and identify key areas of improvement. For example:
- If your support tickets aren’t getting resolved fast, create a systematic workflow that helps your customer service representatives deliver results within a 24-hour window.
- If your clients are slow to pay bills, find ways to add clarity to your invoices, like including a payment due date or further breaking down costs for transparency.
As you start creating more and more great customer interactions, don’t forget to ask for a review. The majority of customers are willing to leave a review if you prompt them to, so following up can help you greatly boost your reputation.
Avoid Major Reputational Pitfalls
Even if you’re running a great brand, negative feedback can come in every so often. But in order to avoid an onslaught of bad online reviews — which is incredibly difficult to recover from, especially for small brands — it’s crucial to be aware of two major causes of reputational pitfalls in the modern age: data breaches and tone-deaf marketing campaigns.
When customers buy from you, they trust you to keep your credit card information and other personal information safe. When a data breach occurs, as it has to brands like Target and Marriott, it can cost you thousands (if not millions) of dollars due to fines, lawsuits, and the 83% of customers who will stop shopping with you for at least a few months. And the poor reviews that occur in the process will stay online for life. Take cybersecurity precautions like changing passwords often or using two-factor authentication to avoid this major pitfall for your online reputation.
Further, tone-deaf campaigns — those that are insensitive to current events or customer values — can have the same effect. When Pepsi ran an ad featuring Kendall Jenner in 2017, making light of the Black Lives Matter movement, it took the brand months to recover from millennial backlash. For small businesses with fewer resources, it can take even longer.
Gathering diverse viewpoints before releasing a campaign — and being willing to delay or kill a campaign if the timing isn’t right — is essential for keeping your online reputation intact.
Make Reviews and Feedback a Priority
Proactively collecting positive reviews and listening to feedback from customers are two critical aspects of building a great online reputation for small businesses. It all goes back to creating a great customer experience. When you really understand how your clients feel about your brand, as well as your products or services, and go out of your way to improve, you’ll inspire them to leave glowing reviews that help your business shine.