What do customers really think about your business? They may never tell you to your face, but they will post comments on social media or review sites.
Since nearly 70 percent of U.S. Internet users compare prices or read reviews before visiting a brick-and-mortar store, according to AYTM Market Research, one negative comment about your small business could mean years trying to fix your reputation.
Here's how to protect your online reputation before it gets out of hand:
Post contact information clearly on your website and assure your customers you want their feedback. This sends the message that you are ready and available to talk with them, and will take their feedback seriously. You want complaints coming directly to you so you can deal with them one-to-one instead of on public review sites.
Set up a Google Alert with your name, your business's name and your product or service name so you’ll get an email anytime one of these names mentioned in a blog, article, or review. (It's also a good idea to set up an alert about your competitors so you know what consumers think about them.)
Actively research what is said about you on local review sites such as Yelp, Angie’s List and Local.com. Check with your industry association or ask similar businesses what review sites they check so you won’t miss any important reviews. 48ers, a search engine exclusively for social media, can help you find mentions; so can Postling, a “clipping service” that notifies you when comments appear online.
Have a plan in place to handle your online reputation management and communicate your policies to any relevant employees. This will help you remain consistent in your responses, and avoid any unpleasantness from an inappropriately handled responses to a review.
Just keep in mind that a bad review is not the end of the world. It is what you do with the bad review that makes the difference between you and the competition.