Maintaining a Positive Online Reputation

Adam Latham
The Cowbell Agency

Understanding the Proactive Review Management Process

As Bob Dylan once opined, “the times, they are a-changin’.” And one of the industries that has seen the most radical changes in the last ten years has been marketing and brand management.

It is almost hard to imagine how well major corporation did at controlling their brand perception. Through just the right focus on PR, a few high-visibility sponsorships and events, you knew all the corporations wanted you to know about them. Barring some major news event or tabloid expose, the corporations were in charge of their brand.

Those days are gone. Now, the true managers of a company’s brand is its customers. For good or bad, social media has allowed customers to talk and exchange information about companies whenever they want. All it takes is one #ABCWidgetrippedmeoff and a scathing blog post, and next thing you know, everyone has their own story. Before long, decades of paid-for public relations is toast.

For consumers, this is a good thing. For companies, it is scary as hell. For PR companies and marketing agencies, it means we have change our strategies.

The Cowbell Agency has taken an effective and somewhat radical approach to maintaining a positive online reputation. We start with the assumption that customers are going to talk about you. They are going to leave reviews. And if they are angry, they are going to want to vent to somebody.

Given that assumption, you want to be proactive and soliciting feedback from customers as often as possible. Because if for any reason they are upset with you, you want them to talk to you about it instead of their facebook friends or potential customers on Yelp.

You do this by being disciplined. Depending on your business, you want to ask customers for feedback as soon after your interaction as possible. We recommend a system that sends text messages and emails that not only solicit feedback, but allows them to give you a star rating from 1-to-5. This way, you get a pretty good idea what star rating they would give you on Google, Facebook or Yelp.

Their reply to you flows into a dashboard environment that allows you to see each and every comment, and then respond back to customers as soon as possible. If there are issues you can rectify or smooth over. Do it here, and do it quickly, before they have an opportunity to make their angry post or review.

By the time you’re done with this interaction, you have a pretty good idea what kind of rating they would give you at those public, third party review sites. It is at this time you can, if you so desire, try to encourage them to share their feelings about you.

This solves two major issues: 1) it builds your database of reviews which will help lessen the impact of the negative reviews, and 2) allows reviewers to judge your company on your entire customer service approach, which now includes your attempt to engage them and satisfy their needs.

The other approach I characterize is more of a “fix on failure” policy. You, as the business owner, just sit back and hope your customers are saying good things about you. When you see one come across, and it is a 1-star, you get all angry. You try to remember who the heck this angry customer was. You read the review and you frantically try to figure out if there is a way to remove it. After all, this person is obviously crazy.

But guess what. You can’t. And since you don’t have a pro-active, review-encouraging process, it just sits there…for days. Maybe weeks. Maybe even months. And every time someone searches for a business like yours, there it is, staring every potential customer right in the eye, that 1-star review from hell. You sit there again, passively, hoping someone else would review your company to push that one down the page.

Our systematic approach provides a framework for the type of disciplined internal processes that put you proactively in charge of your online review management and can be implemented in just a few short hours.


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