It happened. The BP-oil-spill level crisis that has customers avoiding your business like the plague. Despite your best efforts, you now find yourself in need of serious online reputation repair.
For an experienced crisis manager, no angry customer is ever really a problem but an opportunity in disguise. The downside is that you aren’t experienced and may not have the budget to bring in expensive consultants to spin the story.
What do you do? Let’s take a look at 10 ways you can reverse your online reputation no matter how deep the damage.
Stop the Fire
The fury of an angry customer can spread to other customers. For this reason, it’s important to stop the fire immediately. You have one person with a possibly valid argument which is much easier to handle than an angry mob.
Quarantine the anger by making immediate personal contact to allow the person to have their voice heard. Anger is often a sign of helplessness. When a customer doesn’t feel like their opinion matters, the anger grows until it is met with the attention it needs.
No matter what the customer demands happen, it’s important to give them your full attention without interruption. Never interject or try to explain. As the old saying goes, the customer is always right.
Commit to Change
Customers that refuse to be calmed down may need additional time. Everything won’t be fixed in one conversation, but showing your commitment to righting your wrongs helps the customer regain trust.
When it comes to reputation management, trust is the opposite of anger. Your ultimate goal is to take action that lets the customer know she has your attention and you agree with any accusation that something needs to change with your business.
Control the Sparks
One review is often just the start of the wrath of an angry customer. Your next step free online tools to find more damaging keywords about your company.
Google Search – use words and phrases from the customer’s review to determine to find more related comments. There will be a need for trial and error to find all instances of the complaint. Google your name, brand and related products or services in different phrases to get started.
Google Alerts – set up a google alert with the keywords and phrases you find. Google Alert is a free tool that monitors keywords on the internet. Using your Gmail account, you can set up an unlimited number of keywords to monitor. You receive an email alert each time the word or phrase comes up anywhere on the web. The alerts can be set to come daily, weekly or at another timeline you set.
Social Mention – Do a social media search to dive deeper into keywords that relate to your business. Like a Google alert, you can find which social media, videos and blog posts talk about your business. This is a great way to discover information a search engine might miss.
Spokeo – This tool includes contact details which may need to be hidden while you deal with the issue at hand. Depending on how large the problem, getting a flood of customer negative feedback can lower morale within your business. Choose which contact points you want to leave public and which you want to hide.
BackTweets – Keywords aren’t the only way to track what people are saying about you. When your brand name and a personal name isn’t mentioned, it doesn’t mean you are the target of a complaint. BackTweets allows you to see who is linking to your website on Twitter. You can see corresponding comments to learn what conversations exist about your crisis.
After you’ve found as much damage as you can online, you have to decide the next course of action to take. The issues won’t resolve themselves with time. The longer you wait to address what you find, the more time you give comments on the topic to spread.
Online Reputation Repair
Malicious site owners aren’t always open to listening to reasonable conflict resolution. In these cases, you may have to take additional steps to combat the attacks on your reputation.
Google Removal is needed when negative reviews go too far. In special situations, possibly involving personal data like a bank account or offensive images, Google will remove search results. Usually, however, you are responsible for contacting the website owner yourself to request removal of inaccurate or damaging information.
There are times when trolls just won’t cooperate. When Google won’t intervene with removal and the website owners insist on doing damage to your brand, file a spam report. The Google spam report feature keeps search results credible by keeping sites with bad information at a low ranking.
Bury the Negative Results
Once you’ve successfully found both the source of the negative comments and assessed the damage, it’s time to be proactive. You need to control the conversation about your brand online. One way to do this is to push negative results from the first few pages of search engines.
The only credible way to do this is to control your keywords. Optimize your website and its subpages. Consider starting a blog outside of your company web address.
Sites like WordPress offer blog templates that are helpful for getting good search engine rankings. With a blog, the overall goal is to provide new and helpful resources that position your brand in a positive light. The more posts you create on a regular basis, the more likely you are to bury negative results.
Ask partners to share your blog articles to improve the chances of them appearing ahead of any negative comments about your company. The goal is to have more positive information about your brand than negative feedback on the internet.
If you don’t have any partners or bloggers willing to share your article as a favor, share information as an expert resource. Sites like Quora rank high in search engine results and allow any user to answer questions.
Choose questions that relate to your brand or service in your industry. By answering questions you get the benefit of showing off your expertise while adding more positive information about your brand online. The more upvotes you receive on Quora, the more likely your post will appear first when users click on the questions you answer.
Boost Your Publicity
The more credible the website who mentions you, the higher the page will appear in search results. Signup with Help a Reporter Out to increase the chances of your brand name appearing in a news story.
Help a Reporter Out is a resource for the media to find expert quotes and opinions. Major news outlets will out rank most small business and personal websites in search engines.
Having your brand associated with a news outlet gives more credibility than a couple of negative reviews. If the credible, positive information appears first, it won’t take very long before you enter the recovery phase of reputation repair.
People will be less inclined to seek out older, negative stories if they are hard to find and get buried under a mountain of good publicity. We see this all the time as corporations get hit with scandals, recalls, bad language, and etc. The internet may never forget, but the people will forgive and forget when executed correctly.
Heal the Wound
Once the fires are put out online, you have to work towards a solution that lasts. Respond to publicly negative reviews on social media, review sites or where ever customer posts are present.
Apologize first then offer your willingness to work at a solution to correct the issue. Since you’ve already made contact with the angry customer you have less of a chance of getting another negative response to your comment.
Never make excuses or explain why the customer is angry. It’s patronizing and shows that as a brand you don’t listen to the needs of the customer. Reveal that your business is going through changes to make corrections.
Remember, an apology is only as good as the corrective actions put in place to prevent it from happening again. No “sorry, but” or briefly addressing issues before moving on and never mentioning it again. People want the trust that you’re listening and not just reacting to bad publicity.
Get a Retraction
Keep reaching out periodically to the angry customer with solutions until you regain trust. Unless the customer asks not to be contacted, each time they respond to your outreach is an opportunity to restore the damage done.
The ultimate goal here is to get a follow-up comment from the customer that takes back their negative opinion. This is a far-reaching goal in some situations, but in the event of a minor misunderstanding, many customers are willing to reverse a negative review as long as their concerns are addressed.
Getting a retraction is a lot of energy to put into one unhappy customer. The choice of making the investment is up to you. Is this customer reasonable or are they set on their opinion of your brand? Converting an angry customer to a happy one could take months so be sure you are making an investment that’s worth the effort.
Earn Positive Reviews
The more positive reviews you earn over time, the more your business rating will improve. Your overall reputation is not measured by how angry one or two customers are but how your business ranks overall.
Your brand’s reputation is restored as customers begin leaving positive feedback. Don’t just focus on direct praise. Product reviews are popular on the internet because customers love to share advice with other customers.
Create a space in your business or on your website where customers can answer frequently asked questions of other customers. Amazon uses this feature well with its Q&A section. The more new information is published about your brand in a positive or even neutral way, the better the search engine results.
Focus on the big picture when it comes to customer service. Reply to every review received thanking customers for their feedback. Add personal notes that address their specific ideas or concerns.
According to the Harvard Business Review, businesses who take the time to respond to increase reviews by 12 percent. The satisfaction rating also gets higher over time.
Keep a cheerful dialogue to attract more conversation. This may seem time-consuming but it pays off in the long run as more customers see your brand as one that can build a relationship with.
Make the process of leaving a review for your business easy. Automated review services let you review reports on how your reviews perform over time and which method of outreach works best.
Online reputation repair is an ongoing job. You won’t dodge every brick thrown your way. Having a plan to deal with the damage after it occurs is what keeps your business thriving over time.
Keep offering your customers a great product or service over time and they will eventually forget about any scandals that impact your brand. As long as you can limit accusations that imply criminal activity, you are in a position to correct mistakes with grace and ease.
Talk to a professional if you are still stumped about where to begin. Running a business and attempting to do your own crisis management is no small feat. Remember to walk before you run, though.
Learn why we think you need to be going after local business reviews before subjecting yourself to the Wild West of online internet feedback.