With New Law Protecting Negative Reviews, It’s Time to Strengthen Your Reputation Management Strategy

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The Consumer Review Fairness Act signed into law by President Obama is expected to protect the rights of American consumers who post honest reviews about businesses or products, even if the reviews are negative. If your business has been threatening customers for posting unfavorable online reviews, you could be in serious trouble.

The Consumer Review Fairness Act prohibits businesses from adding non-disparagement, or “gag clauses,” in their contracts or terms of service. That means businesses will no longer be able to punish customers for posting negative reviews. If they do, they will be answerable to the Federal Trade Commission. So instead of threatening customers with legal action for posting negative reviews, the best way to avoid negative reviews is by providing excellent service and great products.

Customer reviews matter, especially negative ones. A negative review can damage your sales, limit new leads and hurt your online reputation. A bad customer review is like a genie that cannot be pushed back into the bottle. According to published research, more than two-thirds of customers check online reviews before buying a product. You should also know that boosting your customer ratings from two to four stars can increase your conversion rate by nearly 540 percent! Despite the high impact of customer reviews on buying decisions, most businesses don’t treat them strategically.

If you’ve been in business long enough, you’re likely to have received a negative review. Some customers post valid concerns, while others are just difficult to please. According to Yelp, businesses are five times more likely to receive a five-star review than a one-star review, but only if those businesses provide excellent customer service.

The next time a customer leaves a rational complaint, put your ego aside and fix the problem. That should mitigate your negative review. However, if your customer is a compulsive complainer, the best you can do is respond politely and move on. You can take comfort in the fact that having a few negative reviews is not going to ruin your online reputation as long as you have plenty of positive reviews. Research shows that consumers pay attention to negative reviews, but they’re more likely to trust a business if they see a healthy mix of mostly positive and a few negative reviews.

Silencing your customers with a gag clause will never earn you a positive reputation. It will, eventually, damage your reputation further.

Creating, protecting and enhancing your brand’s online reputation should become part of your daily operations. Here are four tips to bolster your online reputation management strategy:

  • Keep track of social media: You must know the problem if you want to fix it. You should know what’s being said about your business online. Set up a Google alert that will send you an instant notification any time your brand is mentioned It will enable you to step in and take the appropriate measures quickly.
  • Encourage positive reviews: The fact is, 90 percent of customers read online reviews, while only six percent are likely to write them. That’s because happy customers usually don’t write reviews. Your goal is to make it easy for them.
  • Respond to every review: Positive reviews won’t require more than a sincere note of thanks. It will make your customer feel important. However, when an upset customer posts nasty comments about your business or product, you must stay calm. Cooler heads always prevail. The best strategy is to remain calm, organize your thoughts, be polite, offer apologies and do your best to resolve the problem.
  • Start a blog: Blogging will help you control controversies and build your brand’s reputation one post at a time. It’s a cost-effective way to establish your brand and interact with your customers. Also, original posts can help assure your customers that you’re an active and authentic organization. Regular and unique blog content can improve the search ranking of your business and make it easy for potential customers to find you online.

We all make mistakes. Having a concrete online reputation management plan in place to address any negative feedback promptly will help preserve your brand’s reputation and demonstrate that you care about your customers. It will show that you’re willing to go the extra mile to make them happy and live up to your reputation.

The best strategy is investing in a good reputation management program. You many not see its effects immediately, but the long-term benefits will be most rewarding. If you feel overwhelmed or bogged down with too many other responsibilities and time pressures, then hire professionals to help you. The reputation management company you choose should be experienced, understand the vision and mission of your business, your brand’s personality and how best to communicate with your customers. A seasoned reputation management company will know how to deal with unhappy customers, handle social media criticism and when to take the conversation off-line.

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