October 20th, 2011.
When it comes to setting up and establishing a local business, there are a number of milestones. Getting your business letterhead, a merchant bank account and customers who aren’t family members, are just some of the hurdles that spring to mind. As soon as your business has grown sufficiently to warrant a mention on Google Places or Yelp, then you start to get customers’ versions or reviews of their experiences. The comments on your Yelp page should make you smile due to your conviction that you’ve provided people with excellent service.
The initial glow of customer reviews may not last, while it’s great to read the rave reviews about your business, it’s likely that you’ll see some that are bad, and possibly even a fiction of the writer’s imagination. The following should give you an inkling of the experiences of review sites that have befallen business consulting clients of mine.
- Customer is unhappy not to receive a refund when they have eaten their meal at an eating establishment, and to further his argument, adds other fictional complaints.
- Competitors who believe that bad mouthing someone else’s business is a valid marketing strategy.
- A negative review that was actually about a business other than yours
We could go on, but you get the picture. To some extent the kind of reviews you get will vary depending on what type of business you’re in and where it’s located. In some cities bar owners try to get along by arranging to have special nights or offers at different times, while in others the thing is to try and beat your competitors to the floor. No matter what your experience, you will need to find means of dealing with reviews of your business, and below are a few tips.
1. Even if a Customer Declares War, They are not Your Enemy
When there is a customer dispute, especially in the current economic crisis, and following reports of labor abuses, the business owner is always in the wrong.
Don’t respond to negative reviews and even downright lies with more of the same, if you do, you will harm your business even further. Take an approach that assumes the customer is genuinely mistaken, and maintain a professional manner.
2. Offer to Find a Solution to the Problem
If you want to safeguard your reputation, don’t admit to any wrongdoing, but offer to help the customer with their problem. If you’ve had a false detrimental review, try responding with something like the following (depending on what business you’re in)
Hi Paul, sorry to hear you thought we overcharged for your Pizza. We do our best to ensure that customers get exactly the toppings they order and all the prices are listed on our menu. We’re actually on the list good value for money pizza parlours. Please contact me, either by coming into the pizza parlour or giving me a call on the above number to see whether we can resolve this situation. Look forward to hearing from you, Steve.
If you already know the customer, it’s probably easy to get hold of them, sort out the problem and you may even persuade them to take the review down. You need to be careful when you contact a customer directly as it requires more tact than you might need on a review site, so take a sympathetic approach to the issue.
3. Be Ready to Accept that There Might be a Real Problem
While I’m not suggesting that the customer is right, if there is even a hint that the complaint is legitimate, then you still have to resolve the situation, and you need to ensure that the same thing never happens with another customer. You may find that your staff need retraining or you might even have to let a person go. Managing and training staff is extremely important, especially when they are in constant contact with customers and only earning minimum wage.
Perhaps your ingredients are not as good as you thought and you either need to improve them, change the supplier, or lower the price you charge. Sometimes it is possible to contact the review site and have a review removed, especially if the reviewer seems to be making a personal attack on you alone. If you have lots of positive reviews than the impact of one bad one should be minimal, ask all your satisfied customers to leave reviews as this will further boost your credibility against the occasional bad one.
July 8th, 2011.
1. You didn’t explain exactly what it was that you wanted…
Did the SEO agency you chose actually understand what it is you do? Did you assume they would? I bet you did! Well that was a rookie error – just because they know SEO, it doesn’t mean that automatically they’ll know all of your business goals and aspirations. It certainly doesn’t mean that through SEO, all of your dreams will come-true overnight. Covering things such as budget and goals are essential in order for us to devise the appropriate strategy for you.
2. The SEO’s weren’t told what already worked (or didn’t work) for you…
Were you clear about what the best features of your online endeavours are so far? Did you talk about what proved successful, or things you tried and that were unsuccessful?
All conversions can be tracked which shows any progress SEO’s have (or haven’t) made. However, if you don’t inform the SEO’s of what already works or doesn’t then you can’t argue if there are repeat mistakes.
3. You didn’t indicate the importance of having one main person oversee the account…
Because any reputable SEO agency isn’t made up of just one person behind a desk and computer handling every enquiry made, but is rather formed of a team of people ranging in size (the team not the people, although this applies to both ) that help manage your account – it is likely that, much like a ‘Chinese-whisper’, your goals, aims and dreams are somewhat diluted to anyone that didn’t speak to you directly.
For example, when person 1, explained the information to person 2, who made brief notes and handed those to person 3, person 3 wasn’t following your direct instructions. They might not have fully understood the notes…however, you don’t have to accept this. If you only feel comfortable with one person in particular handling your account, request that only that person have access to it. This way, any changes made by you won’t come as a surprise to the SEO.
4. You didn’t understand the amount of work needed and so were surprised when costs were higher than expected…
Good Search Engine Optimization will get your site discovered in online search results. There is however, more to it than that. Many people in an SEO agency work to get your site to its optimum, and you need to be aware of just how much work goes into this.
This team will mainly be in charge of making sure that SEO is being carried out for all your online needs
This team works alongside the SEOs to help get you publicity online.
Usability & Design:
This team will have the job of creating a smooth user experience for all users that come across your website.
This team will develop, build and ensure things work – such as buttons on your site, conversion tracking and more.
Providers of Content:
This team will ensure that good content is maintained, and optimised so that people can find it.
5. You didn’t maintain a good relationship with the agency…
Chances are, you started off all guns blazing, before slowly falling into a pattern of laziness, assuming the agency would take care of everything the way you wanted – meaning you wouldn’t have to worry about it.
Further, you were unavailable for meetings, you didn’t specify what kinds of reports you wanted, and changes were (or were not) made that you caused dissaproval. When (on your say-so) these changes were reversed, rankings and conversions fell and this caused (even more) tension between you and the agency.
Remember, rankings and conversion rates can see-saw and any changes made to your site can take time to show the positive affect they are having. You should try not to ignore advice about possible re-designs or new pages that should be added to your site. Other things to consider are using services to monitor your online reputation and testing better versions of your website to get the best results.
April 12th, 2010.
I read an article on Marketing Week “Advertising industry and green charities welcome code changes“.
The story reports on some changes in the codes guiding TV and radio advertising, and one significant change will be that charities will be allowed to run adverts comparing themselves against another charity.
The new advertising code takes effect from September 2010.
I believe it is unlikely that this kind of advertising will go out during prime time TV, or drive time radio; it is too expensive and finger pointing in the middle of Coronation Street isn’t the best way to open up the nation’s purses and wallets.
I do think though that the temptation to run comparative adverts during day time TV will be irresistible to some young up and coming marketing manager. The cheaper costs would be quite a lure, and let’s face it, day time advertising is really boring.
Where I see the some real change happening is in the search market, and given that Google has relaxed its stance on bidding for brand names, we can expect to see a whole raft of guerrilla style PPC campaigns such as “Donations to us go to good causes, not to fund new offices” or “We’re better as we don’t use chuggers” triggered by searches for charity names.
The meta description section of HTML code will become the marketing manager’s secret weapon, and will be “optimised” to within an inch of its life with remarks the activities of other charities alongside traditional calls to action.
The meta description content does not appear on the pages visitors browse, and is only ever seen as a summary of the page in natural search results. Where better to put some unsettling comments and inconvenient truths about charities competing for the hearts and minds of the donating public?
Any bets on which charity will be the first to step up?
Datadial are pleased to announce the launch of their online reputation monitoring tool. Designed for business and agencies that wish to monitor the online profiles of their brand, products, key staff and competitors.
We have designed the user interface to be as intuitive as possible, with an emphasis on speed of use and productivity, while at the same time a feature-rich interface gives in-depth data about the source of mentions and enables you to tag, comment or share mentions for further action.
- This service should be seen as part of any effective online marketing strategy.
- You will be able to track and measure what is being said.
- Armed with this information you will be able to see the effectiveness of your campaigns, gain customer insight, learn how your brand, products and services are being perceived and also join in the conversation and, if necessary, react to any adverse publicity.
- The results will help you with planning for future campaigns, enabling fine-tuning and therefore saving you money.
At this point the software is still at a beta stage, so we are inviting as much user feedback and suggestions as possible on design and functionality. Signup to track one phrase is free, so please go here to signup for an account.
Reputation management is going to be a massive growth area for brands over the next few years. Imagine the power in being able to monitor, track and aggregate everything that people are saying about your company and brand online, on blogs, websites, forums, everywhere in fact that your potential clients can find it. With more and more people researching potential purchases online it won’t just be useful to monitor online sentiment, it’ll become vital.
This is something everyone should have setup. Google alerts will notify you by email every time they find a mention of a specific keyword anywhere online. By setting alerts for keywords like your company name, brand/product names, key staff etc you can keep track of when and why you’re getting mentions online. Key queries include [domain name], [domainname], [domainname.com], [your name], [Brand Name], [yourname], etc.
Google Blog Search
Play with the date parameters to see what people have been saying about your company in the past few days
Lets you find out what people have been saying about you on forums and discussion boards. Many companies keep a close eye on this and react to positive/negative comments.
While Twitter is still quite new to a lot of people, it has a huge user base, and many larger tech and media companies are already using it to connect with their audience. Using Twitter Search you can monitor mentions of your company. Subscribe to the RSS feed to be alerted with new brand mentions.
If you don’t read and respond to this post I will sully your brand by writing vicious articles about your company and I will make sure these articles appear top fo search engines.
Yes, this is the sort of world we live in now where criminals and less than scrupulous companies will seek to dominate what is being said about your brand.
THE MORE PROSAIC TRUTH
In reality the above is pretty uncommon though it will happen. What concerns most of us is how do we know what is being said about our company online and by whom.
We all know that word or mouth opinions are the most powerful in terms of influencing customer behaviour. Most of the time word of mouth extends to just 2-3 people, but what if this opinion finds its way to the top of Google each time someone does a search on your brand or company name. This can be disastrous.
Consider these listings for Dabs.com and laptops direct. These companies could be suffering hugely because of these postings. They may have been made by lone protesters but whoever they are their views are appearing on the first page of Google and that’s going to hurt.
Online reputation management is a relatively new “industry” as companies have caught on and comprehended the power of bloggers and opinion formers.
The service usually involves applying software to “monitor” comment and stories being written within the blogoshphere. The comments are then graded as to their content (positive, negative, neutral) and the writers influence (obviously a comment from the on the BBC site is obviously much more important than one from a lone blogger in Antartica.)
If a client’s reputation is seen to be suffering then a “reputation repair” service is instigated. The purpose of this is to drive any negative comments from Google’s index, and to post more positive comments within the blogs where the damage is being done.
As always, with any PR it is important that companies do not lie about their product or service. If people are posting genuine grievances “The steak was like leather”, “the cashier was rude” etc then a this should be addressed politely and any improvements that have been made should be highlighted. Accentuating the positive rather than prolonging the negative is key here.
Datadial have launched their own Reputation management service this year and have already enabled blue chip clients to stifle negative press appearing Google and other search engines. The service breaks down into personal reputation management, brand reputation management and corporate reputation management.