Running a business nowadays, everything is optics. Whether you’re an international corporation, or a small town mom-and-pop, there’s not a single aspect of your company that’s safe from social media. Even the most seemingly innocuous encounter with a customer could lead to some serious damage via online reviews. And how your company handles these situations not only reflects upon your brand–it also says a lot about the people in charge.


A database service provider accidentally deleted billions of dollars of their clients’ intellectual property, but still came out on top.


A pizza joint got into a Yelp battle with an unsatisfied customer, and they’re no longer in business.


So are you the database provider or the pizza joint? Online reputation management is a nonnegotiable for any business, but finessing this brand component is by no means a simple task. That’s why we’ve decided to give a few tips on how to ensure your company doesn’t make a fatal reputation management error.


Handling Complaints


This is the obvious first step to establishing reputation management protocol. If you aren’t doing anything else, addressing negative online reviews and social media comments can still work wonders. The Three R’s of handling negative feedback are:


Respond quickly


Whether or not you believe the criticism is legit, not only is the reviewer waiting on your response–so is anyone that happens onto your company’s social media profile. A 24-hour turnaround or less is truly the gold standard, but, depending on the situation’s complexity, righting the wrong might take much longer, even up to a week. This doesn’t mean you should wait that long to respond. A simple acknowledgment can go a long way in biding time: “We’re aware of the problem and are currently addressing it. We’ll get back to you as soon as possible.”


Recognize trends


Chances are that, if you keep encountering the same general complaint, it’s time to change something on the company side of things. But first you should diagnose the root of the complaint. If your company provides a service, and you’re frequently getting negative feedback about customer experience not meeting expectations–could it be that you’re not clearly communicating the particulars of your service well enough?


Reform business practices


If enough negative feedback have inspired you to reexamine how you do business, don’t be afraid to be public about this. It’s pretty standard (and often disingenuous) to respond to critical reviews by promising that you’ve addressed the problem within your company and that it won’t happen again. But what steps have you actually taken? Don’t be afraid to be specific about your reforms when responding to a particular review. It may even be a good idea to post once or twice on your social media feed about the changes you’ve made. Everybody respects a mea culpa.


Acknowledging Praise


Though your blood pressure might not be spiked, handling good reviews should be treated just as delicately as the bad. Here you have more than just the opportunity to show gratitude: both the reviewer and those reading the review will have their guard down, allowing you to sprinkle in a little bit of marketing, even a subtle call-to-action for repeat business.


Simply saying thank you isn’t enough. If brevity is your thing, make sure to at least give specificity to your reply—respond to particulars within the review.


For example, let’s say you’re a mountain lodge and a customer named Kathy says in a review, “Had a great time! Waking up to the view of a beautiful, serene lake every morning was exactly what I needed.” A succinct but measured reply might be: “Thanks so much for the review, Kathy! A little peace and quiet is always here for you when you need it!”


In this hypothetical response, the customer was thanked and future trips were suggested within the context of the review—your hypothetical lodge as a go-to for some R&R. All of this was accomplished while sounding casual, welcoming, and the exact opposite of salesy. And don’t be afraid to share great reviews across all of your social media. Even posting bad reviews can function as a gesture toward transparency and how your company is able to solve problems out in the open.


Guidance for Businesses of All Sizes


At tekMountain, one of the nation’s emerging entrepreneurial centers, we specialize in connecting startups and enterprise businesses alike with the technology and mentorship they need to continue to grow. From startup networking to access to investors, we’re here to provide whatever tools your business needs.


Contact tekMountain today to learn more about how your company can catch up to the future.


This blog was produced by the tekMountain Team of Sean AhlumAmanda Sipes, Kelly Brown and Bill DiNome with lead writer  Zach Cioffi.


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