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Think Online Reviews Don’t Matter? Think Again.

Everyone has an online reputation. Unless you’ve decided to unplug from modern life and live on the island from Lost, you have an online reputation. Own a business? You definitely have one. Are you a doctor, dentist, accountant, attorney or other professional? You can bet that someone, somewhere has posted their opinion of your work—and it may not be as favorable as you’d like.
The plain truth is more than 80% of consumers read online reviews before using a business. In fact, if you didn’t come to this blog through an Austin & Williams’ link, you might be Googling our agency right now. These kinds of searches legitimize a business, and the online reviews associated with your business give an instant snapshot for Web browsers. What’s more, 79% of consumers trust online reviews just as much as they would a personal recommendation.

With so much riding on the opinions of previous customers, it’s important to keep on top of your reputation. Here are a few tips to get you started:

  • Be responsive. Familiarize yourself with what people are saying about your business. Claim your page on Yelp, CitySearch and other directories (or have your advertising agency do it for you). Monitor your reviews so you know exactly what people think of your business. And encourage your regular customers to put their thoughts online. Note: Do not pay to have reviews posted. Not only is this unscrupulous, but online consumers are savvy enough to spot a planted review—and then wonder why you need it.
  • Take the conversation off-line. When you respond to a poor review, be sure to apologize, but then ask for contact information to take the conversation off-line. This puts the onus on the reviewer to follow up. Your response will be seen by other consumers, who will then recognize that you’re engaged with and care about your customers.
  • Realize you can’t please everyone. Some people will have a problem no matter what you do. Remember to be courteous and offer to help in any way you can—but in the end, if someone was upset it rained on the day they planned to use the pool, you may not be salvaging that one-star review. (Proceed with caution if you follow this San Francisco restaurant’s lead to be the worst rated place on Yelp. It’s a pro move only.) Just be sure to respond to comments when you have a cool head. There is no better (negative) publicity than lashing out in the heat of the moment. Your place of business might just live in Internet history.

If you keep these strategies in mind, you’ll feel more secure in knowing what the general public thinks of your business and feel like you have a modicum of control over their perception. Henry Ford once said, “You can’t build a reputation on what you are going to do,” so be proactive about what you’re doing to maintain your online reputation.

Share your online review success (or horror) story below!


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