How To Manage Your Online Reputation – Part 1

 

Iain shares some thoughts on the best ways to engage with your customers online and how to turn good service into sales.

Everyone seems to be talking about ORM. You could even say that right now ORM is one of the most popular TLAs (three letter acronyms) in the business world! The official, rather stuffy, definition of ORM is, “the practice of monitoring the Internet reputation of a person, brand or business, with the goal of suppressing negative mentions entirely or pushing them lower on search engine results pages to decrease their visibility.”

That makes it all sound a bit sinister and corporate. I think the true definition of ORM is more positive and is best expressed by former Vancouver hotel manager and ORM consultant Daniel Edward Craig: “…Online reputation management is the process of tracking and responding to online reviews and commentary and using feedback to guide improvements. It’s about actively participating in social networking to build awareness and shape impressions.”

Spot on. Online reputation management isn’t about anything so crude and cynical as gaming the system. It’s about developing an on-going relationship with your customers, responding to their opinions and showing that their feedback, whether positive or negative, matters to you. So what follows are some personal thoughts about ORM that have emerged out of my own wide experience of managing an online travel company and communicating with customers on a daily basis:

1.                  Managing your online reputation

Why bother?

  • People now research trips, make decisions and share experiences online via social media.
  • 75% of customers now cite reviews as being influential.
  • More and more people are using social media platforms, like Twtter and Facebook, so review information moves at ever greater speed.

Evidence suggests social media is currently used primarily as a service channel rather than a direct sales channel, so if your customers are using it they will expect you to be on it and may want to connect with you via social media.

Sales and service are linked and there is absolutely no doubt of the link between service and loyalty, so service and reputation are a great place to start. The transactional “sales” side of social media may not be that strong, but I don’t believe it will be long before large businesses make it happen….just like they did with the Internet! Indeed large companies are building these social media platforms into their service models.

When you come right down to it, using social media is really just about working with your customers in a way that they find most convenient…and isn’t that what good service is all about anyway?

We built the customer review process into “freetobook” right at the start so every customer using our online booking engine receives a review email a day after their stay….and 29% of our customers complete reviews for the properties (voluntarily).

2.                  Where does your independent property start?

  • Audit first, find out what’s out there and what people are saying…or not saying.
  • Understand what you want customers to say and where you want them to say it.
  • Monitor, react and encourage feedback: these are all “first principles” of service… wherever you are.

(These are just some of the tips I have picked up from various places, but if anyone has any comments or examples of situations I would be glad to hear of them: iain@freetobook.com).

Customer Reviews – Bite Sized Winning Strategies (2of10)

Customer Reviews – How to win at the reputation game.customer reviews bite sized winning strategies

Customers trust reviews above promotional material and nothing you can do will change this. Reviews are extremely important for your sales, over 75% of your customers will form an opinion of you based on browsing a set of reviews. Managing your online reputation is now a critical marketing activity, so arm yourself with some winning strategies.

1) Responding to reviews both positive and negative will show that you are looking at customer feedback and taking note. Customers want to know you care, what better way to show it than by responding positively to everyone that took the time to post a review. If a bad review is left without a response to it looks like you don’t care.

2) Get control of your own reviews, if your booking system sends out reviews you will quickly generate lots of reviews which you know are genuine. These are an asset and they will be the best way to counter or dilute bad reviews some of which may be beyond your control.

3) When you get your own reviews, a winning strategy is to send out a “thank you” to those great reviews asking if they would post it on Trip Advisor (give them the link). Making the most of great reviews is important.

4) Good: Have as high a rating as you can but remember very few properties will have a 100% score. Customers do not expect you to have perfect scores all the time and it may even look suspicious if you do. Accept you’ll have the odd bad review and be prepared to handle it.

5) Bad: It can be very personal and disheartening to see a bad review but the last thing you want to do is make it personal. No matter how untrue the review is respond in a constructive way and move on. We are not all perfect 100% of the time and before you know it the odd bad one will get buried in time.

6) Ugly: Never be tempted to reply in kind to an ugly review it only escalates and magnifies the negative side of the review. Customers know that ugly reviews are often more representative of the reviewer than of the service. It is critical to respond in a constructive way and keep the high ground.  Take some time out to consider your response or ask someone else to help, it helps take out the personal element.

You never win by attacking a reviewer, it always makes you look worse.

Reviews need to be monitored and managed. They are a wonderful source of information on how your business is performing in the eyes of our customers. Don’t just “manage” your reviews use them to genuinely improve and develop your business to exceed your customer’s expectations.

Read more detail on our blog : http://blog.freetobook.com/2012/03/managing-your-online-reputation/

(look out for next weeks bite sized winning strategy “How to win with laterooms and booking.com”)