The #1 Mistake That Will Ruin Your Online Reputation

When you find something negative online about yourself or your business, the first reaction is to be upset and angry. Please contain your emotions. We know exactly how you feel. Why would someone put this online? How can I make this problem go away?

online reputation management mistakes

For most it starts with anger, then denial, then revenge or the desire to argue. While these feelings are normal, they are completely inappropriate feelings to take action on. In fact, it is almost guaranteed to blow up in your face if you do anything while in this state of mind. In this chapter, we will discuss some of the biggest mistakes business owners make when dealing with negative comments about them online. Let’s get started.

The #1 Mistake People Make

What is it? Simple, arguing with the person and the remarks they made.

Let’s face it, the internet is a wide open environment where anyone can say nearly anything without repercussions. While the remarks may be entirely untrue when you start arguing the public reading the comments will do two things:

1) Choose a side
2) Wonder if that is how you treat all your customers

Both of these are detrimental to your business. When people respond in anger that feeling comes through in the words they type, giving the response less credibility and making them look like a crazy person.

The other thing to think about is when you argue it can come off as overly defensive which can cause people reading the remarks to question if you are telling the truth. Think about it from a potential customers point of view, they don’t know anything about the situation and only see two people arguing. If they are like most people, they would rather find another company to do business with then attempt to sift through what is being said and make a judgment call.

Contrast a perspective customer reading the argument to them seeing that you responded politely to the comment and attempted rectify the situation. The general public tends to understand that some customers will never be happy but when they see you are making an effort to correct the problem they see that you care about your customers. However, in some cases you should not reply to their comments directly.

How to Destroy Your Business By Not Controlling Your Emotions

Arguing is the most common mistake but certainly not the only one. Over the years, we have seen a myriad of reputation issues pop up online for businesses of all sizes. As they unfold, it can be messy watching what happens.

There was a story recently of a restaurant in Boston, where a customer complained the pie they received on Thanksgiving was not good. In the restaurant’s defense, the customer should have said something at the restaurant rather than go directly online to begin complaining. However, the restaurant’s response was ridiculous.

Instead of attempting to right the situation they began calling the customer “uneducated,” “unintelligent”, and “unpolished”, but that was after telling the customer “go f*** yourself.” Obviously this wasn’t the right approach. In fact it was such a terrible response that the restaurant has gone out of business, we don’t know for sure if the two events are related, but sure seems like it.

There are dozens of stories very similar to this. Everything from restaurants and auto repair shops to major airlines and ISPs, unfortunately, a lot of the smaller businesses end up going under after a situation like this. Don’t make this mistake!

It is a bit more rare, but we have even seen a few cases of the business owner threatening people that are posting negative stuff. There is a famous hotel that threatened to fine patrons $500 for leaving negative reviews all the way up to physical violence against the person leaving the review. Not only can it land you in legal trouble, but it will undoubtedly blow up in your face when you threaten people in a public forum.

How to Publicly Humiliate Your Business

When a business owner sees negative comments one of the next thoughts is to bury the negative review with a flurry of positive reviews. If you can get happy customers to leave reviews, this can be a good strategy. However, a lot of times they decide to take a shortcut and instead post fake positive reviews.

Besides it being dishonest, this can hurt your business in a few different ways. First fake reviews tend to sound fake most of the time, and this can cause people reading them to question your ethics.

Next, some sites can use complex algorithms to determine that the reviews are fake. There are a few different methods of figuring this out including tracking the IP address to know the reviewers location. If they are thousands of miles away it can be a sign the review is fake. Another way is the profile is brand new and has only left one review for that business. These are just some of the ways. Some sites will delete your page if they find out you are doing this.

Even worse is Yelp; they have been doing a lot to combat fake reviews to keep their data trustworthy to consumers. In case you aren’t familiar with them, they have begun taking companies to court for selling fake reviews. However, their newest tactic is even more damaging. When they suspect a business is attempting to manipulate their reviews, Yelp will add a badge to their page telling consumers this.

Why is that more damaging? Think about it, if you are researching a business and see that badge it should cross your mind that the business is most likely manipulating reviews on other sites but also that they are a dishonest company.

How to Handle A Negative Review

We’ve gone over some of the biggest mistakes now let’s talk about a few of the ways to handle the situation. The first thing to think about is timing; it’s important to respond swiftly however make sure you’ve calmed down enough that you have a clear head.

Next look at the comment from the customers perspective. Did they have expectations that were not met? Did they receive poor customer service? Or are they just looking to be heard because your employee didn’t listen to their issues? Whatever the concern is, try to see it from their perspective and think about how you can make it right. Most people just want to be heard and see that you are willing to do something about it.

Pro Tip: Never directly reply to a comment on a complaint website. Always address this issue on a different platform like email. See if you can make things right and upon resolution ask the customer if they will remove or edit their negative review. Replying to the comment, only increases the likelihood that the negative content will show up higher in search engines.

When crafting your response the first thing you should do is acknowledge their concern. You don’t have to take the blame necessarily, but let them know that you understand their concern and would like to make it right. Be sincere! Next, if they have a simple issue you can solve it, most likely, you won’t be able to with a simple response. In this case offer to talk with them directly, some businesses will call the customer others will leave a phone number so the customer can receive a response. The way you handle it will depend on a number of different factors like the type of complaint, your business and what their expected resolution is.

Lastly, you will want to apologize that they had the issue, again you don’t have to take the blame, but you can still apologize that they feel wronged.

The response you create is a massive opportunity to show the world that you care about your customers, and you work hard to keep them happy. There are hundreds of examples where customers complained about a business, the company worked to resolve the issue, and the complaining customer turned into one of the companies largest clients.

Final Thoughts

Each scenario is different, but one thing is clear, you do not want to confront and start a battle online. When that happens you will not win, the only question is how bad you will lose. Learn from other businesses mistakes and respond appropriately or not at all. In the next chapter, we will talk about how you can combat these issues if the cannot be resolved with a simple response or when you are not able to respond to the customer complaint.

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