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It is more important than ever to cultivate a positive online brand in today’s digital age, when 90 percent of customers say their buying decisions are influenced by online reviews. One way to cultivate a positive online brand is to invite online feedback from your members and the community.
You’ll notice in the title I said, “invite online feedback.” To “invite” is more welcoming than requesting and “online feedback” is more neutral than reviewing. So, when you do make the ask for feedback, choose your words carefully to avoid the impression you are soliciting only positive remarks, but welcome all comments.
Tip: Do not offer incentives for reviews as this may violate guidelines for online review sites. As a result, they may delete all of your reviews — organic or otherwise.
Make it easy for members to submit reviews by listing your business on multiple directories and including links to Google, Yelp, Trip Advisor and more. In each case, “claim” your business online.
Reach out to your members by installing a “feedback” button on appropriate website pages after a purchase or inquiry is made, send follow-up emails asking for feedback and create polls or surveys to evaluate your customer service. It depends on the business, but the most effective time to ask for feedback is soon after the initial transaction (within 15 days).
Respond to negative reviews as soon as humanly possible to assure the public you take all comments seriously and are willing to listen, apologize, improve and take corrective action. Most people can be won back and even if they aren’t, other readers will see your genuine intent.
Remember, your business reputation is earned by providing a great product with great service. Avoid focusing on the number of reviews, but rather on the quality of reviews. By responding genuinely, you will display your true character as a business and as a member of the community you serve.
Linda Mitchell is the director of public and government relations for Newtown Athletic Club.