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Pinstripe Answers: How Do I Fix a Bad Online Review?

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by Michael Premo, Content Strategist

This is a question we get asked about a lot. Getting rid of a bad review is not easy, but there are ways to fix it, all of which depend upon where it’s at and your level of interaction.

Many of our clients are in the professional services industry. They rely on recommendations and positive online reviews through sites such as Google, Lawyers.com and the Better Business Bureau. Occasionally, they’ll get a bad review on one of these sites or other lesser-known ones that may have a long term effect on their reputation. While there’s no single easy fix for a bad review, there are many approaches to lessen the effects, and in some cases turn a negative into a positive.

 

Where It’s at Matters

In real estate, location matters. The same can be said for a bad online review. Some websites allow you to respond, while others don’t. The trick is to watch them closely, set up alerts through Google and hire a reputation watchdog.

Let’s take a look at where and what you can do about it.

  • Social Media – Respond Directly and Send a Direct Message (DM)

You have “complete” control of your social media account; therefore, you can delete anything posted directly to your wall. But, business reviews on Facebook or other social media platforms cannot be deleted. You can respond to them, and this article will tell you how to formulate a positive, non-adversarial response.

Another way to handle a bad review is to send a direct message to the reviewer and find some sort of common ground. This may require an investigation into the source of their frustration, as well as some humble pie. The point is to see if they can change or delete their rating. Be very careful about your approach and the words you use. And, be humble, because saying the wrong thing could make matters worse.

  • Google – Respond Directly if Possible and Respond to Review

The world’s #1 search engine also provides its users with business ratings and snippets of reviews. You can “Manage Reviews” in your Google My Business account. Avoid using your smartphone or another mobile device when doing this. Your laptop/desktop gives you the ability to take your time and collect your thoughts—make sure spelling, grammar, and tone are correct.

Take a moment to assess a negative review before you respond. Was this customer a good fit for your business? How were their expectations not met? Can you reach out to them directly? A response is necessary, especially when there’s nothing you can do or say to make them feel better about your business. Just make sure that you follow proper etiquette and maintain a very professional posture. At all costs avoid getting into a back and forth argument with the dissatisfied customer. This is unprofessional and will make you look worse in the eyes of your audience.

A similar approach to responding to Facebook reviews can be taken here as well. Respond directly to the client by reaching out to them personally in an attempt to mend the relationship. In turn they may remove their negative feedback or change it to a positive. Win-win situation here!

  • Lawyers.com – No Response

What do you do when you can’t respond to a bad review or several of them? You go on the offensive and reach out to as many clients as possible and solicit positive reviews. To capture their attention, offer them something in return, such as a book that’s relevant to their industry or free consultation. Be creative with this, because the more you get, the less substantive that negative review will be.

  • Yelp.com – Respond Directly and Send a Direct Message (DM)

People are paying attention to how you respond to a positive or negative review. So, you need to respond to every review, but take your time to know more about a negative review before you respond. If you don’t know the “whole” story, you may hurt your chances to change that bad review. This starts with reaching out to the reviewer. If you know their email address, send them an email. If not, you can DM them through Yelp. Find out more about the situation and how you can remedy it. If they aren’t willing to respond, then compose and post your response to their review.

 

Your Response Needs to Be Timely

You need to respond as quickly as possible for each negative review for a couple of reasons. The first is so others will see that you are committed to your clients and care about their experience with your business. The other reason is that you have a major opportunity to change a bad review into a good one. According to Yelp, you have a 33% chance to change a bad review into a good one if you respond within 24 hours.

The Pinstripe PR team are reputation management pros and can help mitigate negative comments. We have helped local and nationally-based businesses with their online reputation. Contact us to learn how we can help strengthen your reputation.

Truth in Advertising: Wonder Woman’s Lasso of Truth

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Few things can heighten the suspense of a cop drama like a good ol’ fashioned lie detector scene. The machine has its tentacles on the perpetrator. A large needle jumps for every spike in their heart rate, confirming what was suspected all along.

William Marston, the co-inventor of the lie detector, went by the pen name Charles Moulton, and was the author of Wonder Woman. A bio-drama about Marston’s life, Professor Marston and the Wonder Women, was released in 2017 and shows us how he invented the polygraph and why our favorite super hero uses a lasso of truth.

To Uphold the Law

She didn’t need a gun or a laser beam stare. An unassuming lasso was her weapon and one of the things we remember most about Wonder Woman. With her lariat, she could subdue anyone and force them to tell the truth. She even used it on the good guys, as we saw in the recent Gal Gadot film, because she needed the truth to understand more about what was going on in the world.

Seeking the truth is important for a crime fighter, like Wonder Woman, and it’s also important for marketing. We never want to mislead anyone, because that could have a negative effect on clients and customers. Plus, as an advertising agency, Pinstripe is held to the same laws and standards that dictate how companies are able to advertise their products and services.

Under the Florida Deceptive Trade Practices Laws, it’s illegal to make false claims. Things like bait-and-switch and spreading disinformation are also outlined in this law. Any company caught doing this can face extensive fines for each infraction. It’s best to tell the truth and follow the guidelines within your professional community. This is particularly true for the legal, financial and health care industries.

Just the Facts

Media outlets rely on truth and accuracy in their reporting. As you are probably well aware, they have been tested recently, so they’re getting better at snuffing out potential blowback from their audiences.

Because press releases are branding and credibility tools, it’s important for them to have verifiable facts. Any mistakes made could have the opposite effect. Reporters have an uncanny ability to find a different story than what had been intended, especially when the facts are misrepresented.

Nothing But the Truth

With blogs and social media, the delivery of content has been democratized. The messages we deliver to our audiences are a reflection of our brands and illustrate our knowledge, experience, and thought leadership. So obviously, it is critical that our missives are not only truthful, but unique. There are terabytes of content littered throughout the web, making it increasingly simple to cut and paste bits and pieces to make the job of blogging easier. However, plagiarism makes for a terrible brand image. Original work is truthful work. Think of these messages as having a lasso of truth, making your truth easier for others to see.

This article is part of a series on how Wonder Woman’s inspires our marketing philosophy. Throughout the year, we will be featuring more on this topic, so let us know how you feel about it in our comments section below.

Employees Are Also Brand Ambassadors, Not Just the Executives

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Pinstripe has seen, all too often, the mistakes people make when posting on social media. Everyone makes mistakes. We get it. Some mistakes are minor, like the usual typos and a forgotten word or two, while others take on a whole other dimension that can cause a firestorm of negative feedback. Then, even worse, it goes viral.

For the most part, these mistakes are somewhat ridiculous. However in some circumstances, they can have negative consequences for nearly everyone connected. Unfortunately, the individual’s employer could be attached to their profile, and in turn cause customer backlash.

Employee handbooks have whole sections devoted to these issues. Plus, more companies are adopting them. So, why don’t companies turn something that’s perceived as negative into a positive? Encouraging employees to post the great things about the company can have a huge advantage in the social media race.

In the Past…

Bad things said about a company or it’s employees were talked about among family and friends and were rarely found in the papers, which only had a regional effect. However, because of technology, the word-of-mouth systems of old have taken on a whole new meaning. So has the phrase “spreads like wildfire.” Anything posted on social media has the potential to do this. There are so many social media outlets today that monitoring them in order to defend a company’s reputation has turned into a growing industry.

Education and Training

The trick isn’t monitoring, it’s educating. This goes beyond company policies on proper etiquette. Think about creating a brand ambassador program to educate and train employees on how to accentuate the company’s marketing efforts. Instead of having a neutral social media policy with do’s and do not’s, you are creating a positive force of brand ambassadors.

Below are some very basic steps to setting up your employees as brand ambassadors. The possibility of a substantial return on this investment could exceed your expectations.

Communicate the Plan

Informing employees about expectations and repercussions will let them know exactly what the company’s vision is and how social media can highlight the company in positive ways. GE’s brand ambassador plan is a great example of how a company can increase customer engagement through employee engagement.

Provide Guidelines

Your employee handbook should already have social media policies against inappropriate posts. So, they need to know what they should post. Examples are an easy way to answer questions about content before they’re asked.

Permission and Content

You’ll need to reassure them that there are no repercussions for posting positive info and pictures. A little trust will go a long way. To help them along, you can have hashtags available and URLs for quick access on a company page.

Maintaining a Positive Reputation

When employees post good things about their workplace and services, people will take notice. This is especially true when bad things happen and the company goes into crisis management mode. If an overwhelming amount of positive information is out there, then that leaves very little for negativity to thrive on. A positive reputation is easier to uphold in the social arena, and employees as brand ambassadors are a great way to achieve and maintain it.

Online Reputation Management Refresher

For many years, we have helped brands build and maintain their online reputations. The key has been consistency and doing a few things well, as opposed to trying to do everything poorly. Taking control of your online reputation is more important today than it has ever been. The amount of people relying on the internet for research and reviews continues to grow every year.

It’s no longer acceptable for your business to have no reviews or testimonials. If your company is having problems getting online reviews, just ask clients. And keep asking because 90% of the people in a large survey use the internet for research on products and services and 88% of them trust positive online reviews, treating them like personal recommendations.

The Bad Review

In 2014, over 2/3 of the people in a large survey said that they base their purchasing decisions on online reviews. Negative reviews can turn away 22% to 70% of a company’s potential business, depending upon how many bad reviews show up in the search results.

The process to address bad reviews has not changed. All negative comments should be addressed quickly and directly. Communicate with the reviewer, if possible, to rectify the situation or find some common ground. Then, write a blog about how these problems were addressed.

Dealing with Social Media

Social media faux pas still top the list for most frequent and destructive actions to reputations. Last year, the recently fallen YouTube vlogger, Kian Lawley, made racist comments which forced Fox and other companies to pull the plug on all of his film and television projects. The same thing can happen to small and midsize companies, which is why protocols need to be in place for all social media marketing.

Once the News Hears About It…

Over the years, news and entertainment media have increased their coverage of social media activity—from the President’s quixotic tweets to sports and television stars. Social media has become newsworthy, especially when it’s negative.

No one is immune to this trend. Even worse is when mistakes go viral, like the epic social media fail for a store in northern Minnesota, because local media outlets cover local businesses and someone, anyone can pick the story up and share it.

Everything Contributes, Not Just Social Media

Reputation management has a good mix of everything. Social media is a large part of that reputation, but it isn’t the only thing that matters. Keeping content fresh and up-to-date is also important. Businesses can go back and erase negative or outdated posts. This includes website content, like blogs, articles and case studies.

It’s also important to follow websites that post client and customer reviews. Many will have a policy for retracting negative reviews. All of this is part of a reputation maintenance plan, because an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

In some cases, you may need a bit more help with smoothing over your bad review or a publicly smeared reputation. In these situations, Pinstripe Marketing can help! Contact us for assistance.

 

 

 

 

So You Got a Bad Customer Review …

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Public and readily accessible customer reviews are a fact of life for today’s business owners. Whether focused on a specific industry such as reviews at Hotels.com or covering a wide range of companies (i.e. Google Reviews, Yelp … etc.) there are plenty of online sites that want consumers to rate satisfaction with a recent purchase. The question for business owners and managers is what to do when they inevitably get negative comments.

Take Stock of the Situation

We may like to say that the customer is always right, but when criticized our natural inclination is to be defensive. We’ll make excuses, question the veracity of our detractors, or claim others are at fault (There are two sides to every story, after all!). Still, we should try to overcome our human impulses and:

  • Stay calm – Yep, they really said that, right there, for all the world to see. The unfairness of it all! Okay … stop. While your every instinct may be to fight back, instead clear your head and concentrate on fixing a problem. The issue isn’t necessarily a bad review. Also, if you’re wishing your customer had tried to be more understanding, maybe you could start the ball rolling by going first.
  • Investigate – Do what you can to understand what transpired to create the unhappy customer. Recalling the incident, or finding the employee who remembers what happened may depend on the level of detail in the reviewer’s account, but make a good faith effort to get the facts. Keep in mind that the in-house person who knows the most about the incident may have had the biggest role in making the customer unhappy. Don’t be accusatory with that staff member, but take pains to see the matter from the customer’s perspective.
  • Make Changes – Once you’re satisfied you have a handle on what transpired, ensure there will be no cause for similar reviews in the future. Did an employee do something wrong? Was a policy at fault? If so, address the deficiency and correct it. Was the problem unavoidable or was the customer in the wrong? Then explore measures to let upset customers in the future know you care about their feelings, even if you can’t make them completely happy.

React Positively

You’ve done what you can to uncover the facts and you have a plan for moving forward. Now it’s time to let others know you’ve acknowledged a problem and are working to set things right by:

  • Responding Online (at the review site) – Don’t just let a bad review sit there! Many customer satisfaction sites provide an opportunity for you to address a critical review. (This goes for social media criticisms as well.) Respectfully and graciously express your concern that a customer had a bad experience. If your investigation found that your business was at fault, own up to it, apologize and let people know how you plan to fix the problem. If the problem was out of your control, politely explain why. Don’t belabor your points.
  • Contacting the unhappy customer directly – If possible, contact the person who posted the negative review. Let them know you are disheartened that they had a bad experience. You may find them very reasonable as the heat of the moment has passed, They may even appreciate you reaching out to them. See if reasonable accommodation can be reached. Keep in mind: It’s not so important that they understand your position, but that they know you care about theirs.
  • Going public – Without rehashing a specific bad review, let customers (current, former and prospective) know you value their feedback whether it’s good or bad. Encourage their reviews on rating sites (suggest a few that you can easily monitor) and add the proviso that you’d always like the opportunity to address any concerns. When real problems are uncovered, let everyone know you’re fixing them. “Responsive” and “thoughtful” are very marketable qualities in a business.

Minimize the Impact

Though you do everything possible to set things right—and that irate reviewer is now your most enthusiastic advocate—a negative comment could virtually hang around forever. Here are three things you can do to mitigate the damage:

  • Overwhelm the bad reviews with good – As mentioned, you should encourage customers to review your business, and if you usually do a good job, your ratings will reflect that. People understand everyone occasionally has a bad day, and some customers are going to be unreasonable jerks, so the stray one-star rating won’t sink you. Just don’t manufacture glowing reviews—that’s unethical and there could be negative repercussions from the review site.
  • Work on Search Engine Results – Google the name of your business. What comes up at the top? If negative comments are prominent, embark on a plan to increase improve your Internet presence. The more “good news” you have out there, the less prominence any negative reviews will have.
  • Emphasize customer testimonials and case studies in your marketing – Apart from trusted word-of-mouth communication, verified testimonials and case studies are about the most effective form of advertising. Make them a component of your sales and marketing strategy on your website, in ads and commercials, brochures … everywhere! You want to people to see that happy customers are the norm, and a bad experience is an aberration.

Final thought: think of negative reviews as an opportunity. If you have a problem in how you’re serving customers, you want to know it. And if you aren’t really doing anything wrong, here’s your chance to practice your customer relations skills. Besides, anything that encourages us to look beyond our normal, everyday perspective will only help us grow and be better prepared for new challenges in the future.

The Pinstripe PR team are reputation management pros and can help mitigate negative comments. Contact us here to learn how we can help.