We've always emphasized the importance of keeping your customers happy, because this will not only mean they're more likely to show loyalty and refer their friends and family to you, but it also means you get brownie points from eBay or Amazon (if you are selling in those marketplaces). Good reviews also help you rank better in Google — and of course, most people who buy anything online check out the reviews first.
It all boils down to having a good online reputation. But what if you get negative reviews, or someone disses you on Facebook? Deservedly or not, it can damage your reputation, and that can be major bad news for you.
E-Commerce is All About Reputation
A major component of e-commerce is the lack of actual contact between seller and buyer. Each of your buyers gives you a degree of trust every time they buy something, because they don't get to check out the merchandise until after you deliver it to them. If you do right by them, you increase that level of trust and confidence.
However, you only have to mess up once — and months or even years of effort can be compromised. As this TheWebShoppe.net article points out, you are only as good as your customers say you are. If you're unlucky enough to encounter an unreasonable buyer who demands the impossible, it won't matter if you are within your rights to refuse their demands; ultimately, you get a negative review. Other people will read it and at least a few will believe it.
Marketingland reports that 86 percent of consumers said negative online reviews influenced their online buying decisions.
The problem with getting negative reviews is that they can't be removed unless they are defamatory. In most cases, it's very hard to prove you didn't deserve the negative review or rating, and attacking the reviewer only makes you look defensive.
On the other hand, you really can't afford to ignore bad reviews, not if you want to continue selling online. You need to address the damage to your online reputation, and as soon as possible. What can you do?
Apart from making an honest effort to address the needs of your legitimate customers, you'll have a hard time of it when working against e-commerce trolls. If you have the funds available, you may want to consider a reputation management company.
What is a Reputation Management Company?
Simply put, a reputation management company will help you push down reviews, comments, posts, and articles that put you in a bad light. What we mean by “push down” is to move these negative statements further down the search results to make them less prominent. Reputation managers employ a number of strategies to do this, for a fee.
However, you have to be careful. Some reputation management companies promise to “remove” these negative results for a hefty price. It may be tempting, but don't buy into it. It is nigh impossible to remove user-generated content (like reviews) from a platform you don't own. These claims are essentially a tip off to a company that makes its living scamming others.
Another thing you have to look out for is a company that uses illegal tactics such as astroturfing and posting fake reviews. This kind of malicious action can land you in hot water with consumer protection agencies, and leave you with a more tarnished reputation than before.
There are legitimate reputation managers out there that can help you. Typically, they push down negative results by consistently and regularly creating relevant and fair content on your website, contributing to blogs and forums, actively participating in social media, linking to authority sites, and implementing creative web design to make your site more attractive.
The purpose of these strategies is so Google will move you, and your nice new mentions, up the ranks. By doing so, older, more negative content gets push down.
Is it Worth It?
There's no denying it, though; professional reputation management services come at substantial expense. You could wind up paying between $1,000 to $5,000 a month, with no guarantees. For most small e-commerce retailers, that's just not in the cards.
Another consideration is that it may not even work. This study on reputation management shows that it may only have a positive impact on established sellers. If you're new to the game, it may not be worth hiring a reputation management company to help you bring negative results to heel.
Can You Do it Yourself?
It is possible to repair your online reputation yourself, but it will not be easy. The most important thing you have to do is to be responsive. When a customer has an issue with a particular transaction, you should always respond promptly, courteously and constructively — even if you feel that the issue isn't your fault.
This ZenDesk article states that 69 percent of people who had problems with a purchase still left a good review because their issues were resolved quickly. If there is one thing that all customers hate it is to be passed around to multiple people, or worse, ignored.
You will also need to monitor what's happening on your site, social media, and just around the web in general, in real time. This is a daily task, and should be done religiously. As stated above, the key to effective reputation management is responsiveness. If you find out about a negative comment or review as soon as it is posted, you can respond to the criticism and effectively minimize the danger before it spreads.
Speaking of social media, this Forbes article emphasizes the importance of being active in social networks. Social commerce is where most of the action is these days. If you get a lot of likes on Facebook or followers on Twitter, it will definitely impact positively on your online reputation.
You can't control everything that your buyer does, but you can do quite a bit to make sure that they are satisfied. Have a good product, deliver fast, and put an emphasis on great after-sales service. You may still get the occasional bad review or nasty comment, of course. That is almost inevitable.
However, if a majority of your customers are satisfied with your product and services, then there's no need to panic. This will not break you. Just go on fighting the good fight and give your customers the best possible user experience you can give them.
How have you managed your online reputation? Share your experiences in the comments.