While most of are consumed with Thanksgiving preparations, business owners are already looking ahead to the winter holiday season. The days between Black Friday and Christmas Day are a point when many retailers finally make their way into the black, so a poor holiday sales season will impact the entire year’s bottom line. Right now is the perfect time to clean up your company’s online reputation and position yourself for a strong holiday sales season. Below are three reputation management tips for cleaning up your company’s online reputation before the holiday shopping season gets underway.

Address customer complaints on social media profiles

A June 2012 survey conducted by eMarketer found that nearly half of consumers expect a brand to resolve customer service complaints on social media. Given the hassle associated with calling support staff and waiting hours on hold, it is easier for customers to vent their frustration on a Facebook wall or in a tweet. When companies do not actively monitor their social media accounts, they are more likely to overlook complaints shared by customers. Businesses that do not respond to complaints run the risk of alienating:

  • the customer who shared a complaint
  • that customer’s social network friends/followers
  • fans/followers of the brand who see an unaddressed negative complaint
  • customers who are not brand fans/followers who see an unresolved complaint on a Facebook page or in a tweet

Checking it twice!

Companies should take a look at their social media accounts today to see if any unresolved complaints have been shared, then respond to these complaints appropriately. Even a personalized version of a message such as, “We are sorry to hear about this, and have forwarded your complaint to the appropriate dept. Thanks for bringing it to our attention” shows that your business is transparent and cares about addressing problems. Businesses with high-traffic profiles should also assign an employee to monitor social media accounts so that new complaints are addressed in a timely manner. Just make sure he or she is able to respond in under 141 characters!

Check online review websites

If online reviews are not a part of your reputation management strategy then you are making a huge mistake. An April 2012 study by Nielsen found that online reviews are the second most trusted form of advertising among consumers, trailing only word-of-mouth recommendations. Consumers put more trust in online reviews than they do in television ads, online banner ads and ads on social media. In spite of this, many businesses ignore online review sites, which means that they are unaware of the reputation damage these sites might be causing. Even if your business has many satisfied customers, the concept of selection bias tells us that individuals who have a negative experience are more likely to write reviews than individuals who had a positive one.

To clean up online review site profiles for your business, first respond to individuals who posted a negative review. Some review sites allow business owners to respond underneath reviews with a comment, so business owners might provide the e-mail address or phone number of a customer service representative who can address the reviewer’s complaint. In other cases, the business owner will be able to send the reviewer a private message or gain access to his or her e-mail address. Once complaints have been addressed, the business can boost its overall rating by encouraging satisfied customers to write a review on these review sites, or reviewers who wrote negative reviews to give you another try. This ensures that the reputation of your business will stay intact throughout the holiday season.

Google your business

Take a look at the results on the first page. You will probably see your website, your social media profiles, a few profiles for your business on review sites, and business listings. However, you might also see a negative news article about your business or a blog post written by an angry customer. Research has shown that more than ninety percent of Google searchers do not look past the first page, so generally pushing negative content off of the first page will be enough to save the company’s reputation. Creating and optimizing new content to take the place of existing content in search results will accomplish this.

 

These are just three online reputation management steps that can be taken to prepare your business for a strong holiday sales season. Remember that when practicing reputation management, being proactive now will save you make it much easier for your business to react to a crisis down the road.