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Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Managing Your Businesses Online Reputation

A decade ago managing the reputation of your business could be covered using the same techniques that have been used since the invention of the printing press.  But with the advent of Web 2.0, social media and the growth of community review sites, that time has passed.

Today a simple web search for your business name surrounded by quotes can be an eye opener.  Practically every business located in a major city has been reviewed somewhere online – and most owners don’t even realize it.  Sites like Yelp.com, Citysearch.com, and of course SpaFinder.com allow your customers to easily post ratings and reviews about your establishment. 

What this means is that your potential customers are reading not just the descriptions of your business and services that you have spent hours crafting and publishing on your web site, but also reviews that you may have never seen and didn’t know existed.  The logical next question is, “How do I manage and profit from these reviews?”  Unfortunately there isn’t a simple answer, but there are a few key steps that you can take:
  1. Use these services to your benefit - With online communities, the more reviews about your business, the more trusted it becomes.   I recommend giving a printed card (or adding a link SpaBooker’s Thank You Email template) to each of your customers when they are checking out that asks them to leave a review of your business on your site of preference.  These reviews are becoming even more important now that Google has started adding them to their local search results (to see what I mean try a search for New York City spas), since the number of ratings a business has helps determine its placement in organic search results.

  2. Monitor Popular Sites – Make sure to visit Yelp.com, SpaFinder.com and other sites where your business is regularly reviewed (a calendar reminder works nicely) to see what your customers are saying.  Not only will this help you measure your online reputation, but it can also help to identify issues within your business quickly.

  3. Respond to negative reviews – While it’s a nice idea to strive for perfect five star reviews every time, this actually can be a detriment to how you are perceived in the market.  Consumers tend not to trust businesses that only have perfect five star reviews, especially if there are only a few of them.  The best thing to do with negative or critical reviews is, respond to them.  Most sites allow business owners to respond to reviews, and if a site doesn’t, just post a response comment.  In most cases, these sites will not post particularly slanderous comments or reviews, but if one does slip through, you can usually request its removal.

  4. Provide Great Customer Service – I know that it sounds like common sense, but it is amazing how many times it’s forgotten.  After all, ratings and reviews are ‘word of mouth’ personified.  What was once intangible and hard to measure, is now easily searchable across the web.  The main way to make sure that your business is receiving glowing reviews is by providing terrific service.  This applies to every facet of your business, but remember to pay particular attention to your front desk staff, after all they are your customers’ first and last point of contact.
While community review sites have undoubtedly created new challenges for business owners everywhere, the upside is that there are now many more places around the web for potential customers to find you. Ratings and reviews are here to stay, and if managed properly, they will be a tremendous tool to help your business grow.
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