Effective Reputation Damage Control

“I hate you…and now I’m going to Facebook about it.” Horrifying words, indeed. Getting positive reviews on social sites is the Holy Grail to owners and management. It means you are doing something right and someone took the time to write about it. But this happens both ways – good or bad – your brand is on display for the world to see. And you don’t control it. Your clients, customers, employees, and even passersby now speak with a voice louder than a street corner fanatic with a megaphone.

The COLLOQUY 2011 Word-of-Mouth study found that 26% of the general population agreed they were inclined to advise friends and family about bad experiences with brands and that they were “far more likely to spread a bad experience than a good one.”

With so many channels to leave reviews on: Yelp, Google Places, YellowPages, Yahoo Local and not to forget personal blogs and industry-related forums, a bad review is going to appear – somewhere. But fear not, there is an answer to what you should do in these times of battling against negative reviews and protecting your company’s reputation.

It Is Impractical To Think That You Can Please All The People All The Time

When you have a bad experience with a company you want to tell someone, anyone who will listen! It just feels good. It is self-gratifying. It’s the American way. The world must know when pickles were included on what should have been your plain hamburger! And shame on the pink-bow-sporting, teenage girl taking your order…forever shall she be banished to the depths of fast-food service hell for her blatant indiscretion!

No matter how expletive-laden your recollection is, your friends and peers listen. They pay more attention to it than they do experts and critics. Everyone has experienced this from both sides.

Your Negative Reviews Are Hurting You, Now Is The Time To Take Action

The most effective way to battle negative reviews is to take action, quickly and effectively.

  1. Responsiveness is key: It is imperative that you keep your ears and eyes open for any reviews or online comments about your brand or customer experience – no matter how tedious this sounds. Knowing what and when something is said about you will be imperative for you to respond quickly. Responding to reviews from three months ago will make you look indifferent, or even worse – incompetent. Quickly responding with fact, remedy, and compassion shows that you are aware of the situation and you make it a point to address people’s concerns.
  2. Get personal: Nobody wants to read a robotic sounding response. Make sure that the message you deliver is real and human – and in the tone of your brand. Use real people’s names from your company and be willing to be transparent. That means owning a mistake if it is yours to own.
  3. This isn’t a shouting match: Even if the review is completely outrageous based on what “really” happened, now isn’t the time to point fingers and “fight back.” Defending your brand and company doesn’t mean accusing the other person. Make sure your responses directly reflect the person’s situation and their point of view. You may not see eye to eye on what happened, but taking the high road will be way more valuable in the long term.
  4. Listen to what is being said: More often than not people will get on the bandwagon if they see one person leave a negative review about something. So listen to what is being said and look for a root cause. If everyone is giving negative reviews because of one particular receptionist, maybe it’s time to have a talk with that receptionist. Responding to reviews is step one. The next step is create a clear plan of action to address the root problem internally as well.

At the end of the day, brands are not the only ones in charge of their own destiny – customers are too.