The way people see you can make or break your business. Online Reputation management can paint the right picture and boost your profitability. But failing to manage your reputation can have devastating consequences.
Many people will tell you that you shouldn’t care about what others think.
Well, guess what?
In the business world, this is complete nonsense.
If you want to thrive in the market, you need to care a lot about what others think and say about you. Nowadays, it’s not enough to just have a good product or service. While this is an obvious must, it won’t ensure that someone chooses you over a competitor.
Don’t believe me?
What if I told you that, according to a recent TripAdvisor survey, 94% of American diners will look at restaurant reviews before going out?
They haven’t even tried the food or the service. But it doesn’t matter. A positive online reputation is enough to draw them in.
Then, you have the issue of one bad moment potentially destroying your reputation.
When that happens, the fate of the business gets left in the balance.
The Hotel Horror Story
I’m going to take you on a virtual trip to the Royal Highland Hotel in Inverness, Scotland.
Back in 2013, this hotel had seen its reputation get left in tatters after an issue with a family that visited for lunch.
The family got seated and decided on their orders. Everything seemed to be going pretty well until one of the members asked for fish fingers (known as fish sticks in the States).
The problem for the hotel was that the man who asked for the meal was 47 years old. Traditionally, the hotel only served this meal from its under-12s menu.
So, the wait staff refused the order…
But what they didn’t account for was that the man who made the order also had Down’s Syndrome.
The family chose to leave the dining area because of the refusal to serve the meal.
Now, what’s your immediate thought when you hear that story?
I reckon a lot of you will think this was a terrible act by the hotel. It comes off like they refused to serve somebody who has a disability, right?
That’s how most people saw the issue.
The family jumped straight onto Facebook to tell their story. And that started an absolute cavalcade of comments and reviews on social media and sites like TripAdvisor.
The Royal Highland Hotel didn’t know what hit it.
Suddenly, anybody who searched the hotel’s name would see dozens of negative reviews, many of which went something like this:
Would never eat here after your treatment of a human being, think you should listen to what’s being said!!!!!! Public apology wouldn’t even cover it!!!!!
They’d also see the news stories published by newspapers, including The Daily Mail. The story even made it to AOL. And worse yet, somebody set up a website with the specific intention of convincing people to boycott the hotel.
Just desserts for a business that failed to perform to the appropriate standard, right?
The Business’ Perspective
I’m not for a moment going to claim that the hotel was in the right for refusing to serve the fish fingers to the man in the story.
But, let’s think about this from the hotel’s perspective for a moment.
They have a rule in place that this particular meal only gets served to under-12s. From their perspective, all they saw was somebody who was above that age limit ordering the meal.
This wasn’t about a person’s disability.
It was about a hotel that had a rule and was perhaps a little bit too strict in enforcing it.
Ultimately, that lack of flexibility when it came to their own rules came back to bite them.
A single error in judgment resulted in social media campaigns and news stories that threatened the business. And for many months after the incident, anybody who searched the hotel’s name would see the stories and bad reviews.
All because of one decision that got misinterpreted.
And now, you can see just how quickly a single bad review can escalate into a major problem for your business.
In such a situation, you need to understand how to do your online reputation management.
The Role of Reputation Management
Reputation management isn’t just about recovering from bad reviews and misunderstandings.
You’ve also got a bunch of competitors to consider.
You’re not the only player in your niche. In fact, you’ve never had to compete against more businesses than you do today.
How many small businesses do you think exist in the USA?
According to Fundera, over 30 million!
What’s more, the SBA’s Office of Advocacy states that only a third or so of those businesses will be around 10 years from now.
How are you supposed to survive in such an environment?
Whatever stage your business is in, reputation management can make sure that it reaches the next.
I’d like to dive a bit deeper to show you why you should focus on your reputation right away.
Building from Scratch
It’s never too early to start building your company’s reputation. By managing your reputation from day one, you can make sure your business grows in the right direction.
Failing to do this had an impact on the Royal Highland Hotel. When the internet storm hit them, they didn’t have a strong online reputation to fall back on. That left the hotel with an uphill battle when it came to repairing the damage caused to its reputation.
When you’re the new kid on the block, it can be hard to prove you’re the next big thing. Your first instinct might be to butt heads with the competition until you find your place.
I think this is a bad idea.
Instead, you need to focus on what your first few customers have to say. Getting positive reviews is hugely important if you want your business to take off. Because if people start bashing you online as soon as you show up, your competition won’t have to do anything. Your business is as good as dead.
This is why you’ll want to start spreading a positive message about your brand the moment you set up shop. There are all sorts of ways to do this, which I’ll get to in a bit.
Although first impressions are important, they will only take you so far. As your business grows, you’ll have to make all kinds of decisions. And they’ll have a terrific impact on how people see you – so you’d better make sure they’re the right ones.
You should never just assume that people will react positively to what you do. You must have a strategic approach to maintaining your reputation. Staying on top of what people think and say should be your main goal here.
In our story, the Royal Highland Hotel could have gotten on top of the issue if they checked Facebook. They could have responded directly to the family and commenters to explain their side of the story.
But they weren’t that quick to react. And by the time they did, the negative story had spread like wildfire.
The truth is that anything negative will spread much faster than the positive things people are saying about you. That’s just how the world works. You can do everything by the book and then have one slip-up destroy your reputation.
When people look for you online, a Google search might highlight your mistakes before it even takes them to your website.
But if (or when) you do mess up, you can always do something about it.
Restoration and Rehabilitation
Careful management of your reputation should minimize the risk of things getting out of hand. But the risk is never at zero.
The more successful your business, the more likely it is that someone won’t like what you do. In fact, they might even hate it so much that they’ll go out there and tear you apart with negative reviews.
Never underestimate the power of review sites. Make the wrong person angry and you can lose a huge chunk of your audience.
That’s exactly what happened to the Royal Highland Hotel. And they made things worse with their reaction, which just poured fuel onto the flame.
The hotel started questioning the honesty of the reviews they found. In many cases, this was justified. A lot of the reviews came from people who’d never stayed or eaten at the hotel.
But this combative response simply drove a further wedge between the hotel and the public.
Despite your best efforts, there’s always a potential for this to happen. And if you’re not well-versed in reputation management, you’ll only make things worse. You might handle the negativity in a way that attracts more hate.
This is why businesses that mess up often hire reputation management companies for help. These specialist firms know exactly how to deal with angry customers and turn them around.
How Reputation Management Connects to Customer Experience
As a business owner, your job is more than just selling products to people and taking their money. If this is your mindset, you might as well close up shop, as it’s just a matter of time before your audience does it for you.
Above and beyond sales, you need to keep people happy.
You need to ensure that their experience with you is so good they can’t resist sharing it with others. This is how you generate positive reviews that will keep your business afloat.
Did you know that, according to the Local Customer Review Survey, an average buyer needs 40 reviews to believe your star rating is real? That’s how much people care about what others have to say about your business.
What’s more, 91% of people in the 18–34 age group said, in the same study, that they trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendation.
I really hope this makes you understand how important it is to ensure that people’s experience with your company is a good one.
On the positive side, the Temkin Group Report shows that 77% of those who had a good experience would recommend your company to a friend. That’s a lot of effective marketing for absolutely free.
With this in mind, it’s safe to say that social media and review sites can be your best allies. But they can also be your worst enemies.
Creately’s research shows that 83.5% of people won’t buy from someone who has a rating of three stars or below.
That’s the adverse effect of negative reviews on your success.
Do You Need Help with Reputation Management?
By now, you can see the drastic effects that one bad incident can have on a business’ reputation.
The Royal Highland Hotel took several years to recover from the online battering that it took.
I hope that you now have a better understanding of how crucial it is to have a long-term strategy for managing your reputation.
You need to have protocols in place should your company’s reputation come under attack. It’s these protocols that’ll help you to manage your response and limit the damage.
It’s never been more important to have a good online reputation, so make sure you put enough time and effort into it.
If you’re not sure where to start, my team and I can help. We’ve helped many businesses with our reputation management services, and we can do the same for you.
If you want to know more, visit our website.
Facts & Data on Small Business and Entrepreneurship
Are Younger Consumers More Tolerant of Bad Reviews? Or Do They Just Understand Them Better?
How One Business Saw Its Reputation Destroyed Within 24 Hours. And How You Can Stop it Happening to You.
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