The Importance of Reputation Management
Business owners have to be aware of one important thing: what goes online, stays online. In an era where people are increasingly concerned with online privacy, the internet continues to get smaller, and information travels faster.
Unfortunately, running a business isn’t always smooth sailing. Eventually, at some point, mistakes happen and people get angry or disappointed. It’s common knowledge that people are more inclined to post reviews or share experiences when they’ve had a negative experience rather than a positive one. Take online apartment ratings as an example: with notoriously low ratings across the board, how often do you see someone writing a review when they’ve had experiences that met their expectations? When an appliance breaks, or an inconvenience happens, people are more inclined to write a negative review, than to write a positive one when things worked as expected.
What business owners need to understand is that what happens in the ‘real world’ has an increasing chance of going online. One bad experience with a customer could lead to them writing a bad review on a number of different sites. These days, it doesn’t just end after the bad encounter. With negative reviews going unnoticed, or even worse, responded to poorly, you risk gaining a reputation that turns off countless potential customers.
Let’s take a recent (on-going at the time of this writing) news story of a bar in the popular district of Rainey St in Austin that has faced the fearsome backlash of public outrage. After being accused of racist, sexist, and overall rude treatment towards patrons in their establishment, Unbarlievable Bar and their owner, confronted negative reviews on Facebook with the same aggressive attitude that caused the mess in the first place. By insulting online reviewers with petty and racist insults, they began an avalanche of negative reviews from users who had never even stepped foot in their establishment. The seeds of outrage (from a story that had not even been vetted at the time) spread over every site that listed the Unbarlievable bar. Within hours, their Facebook reviews plummeted from a modest 4 stars, to 1 star, prompting the administrators to remove their Facebook review section. Yelp was barraged with countless 1-stars from outraged reviewers wanting to condemn the establishment for not just the initial actions, but more so for the response by the owner. The effects of a business owner carelessly thinking insulting customers online would not affect his business’s reputation negatively has led to likely irreparable problems.
Whether you agree or not with the idea of customers posting negative reviews for places based on ‘facts’ they’ve read online, the fact is it will continue to occur. Businesses need to be mindful that social justice is a strong motivator that spurs people to take action, and online reviews are the easiest and most direct way to do so. Since the posting of this article, the official Unbarlievable Facebook account, and their owner, have publicly apologized for their actions. However, at this point it may be too late. We have yet to see what will happen to the bar and the countless of bad reviews they’ve gathered. So it’s a lesson learned:
Seek out negative reviews. Be mindful of how you respond to them. It’s important to remain respectful and show other readers that you take concerns seriously. A well crafted response can do wonders in remedying the effects of a negative review. Don’t make the same mistake countless of business owners have done in the past. Put your personal feelings aside, take the high ground and focus on making your online reputation as spotless as possible.