If you have a great product and can tell a good story, your social media posts are likely to get a lot of attention. However, the social media posts of your brand will also have customer feedback–comments, suggestions, and inevitably, criticism. The times we live in, social media conversations can help you discover what customers are saying about you. That’s not all, your customers will also share reviews on online review sites. These can also work either for or against you, depending on how you respond to them.

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Though some might think otherwise, customers do expect to hear back when they comment on their social media posts or review their products. According to ReviewTrackers.com, 63% of customers reported that a business has never responded to their review. This can be perceived as indifference particularly when customers have a complaint. Unless addressed, frustration over issues like shipping delays, complicated returns, or warranty exclusions might boil over and eventually affect what the larger audience thinks about your brand. It is critical that you seize the initiative and respond to both social media comments and online reviews with empathy and resourcefulness.

The reputational risk to your small business can even come from concocted online content.

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For example, some years ago, Yelp confirmed that about 20% of the reviews left on its pages were fake. Other review sites are probably not too far behind either. If your online business has been the victim of a targeted smear campaign, Online Reputation Management (ORM) can be critical for survival.

What is Online Reputation Management?

Online Reputation Management is a process that helps you build and maintain a positive image and if required, address criticism in a constructive way. It also helps your brand develop rapport and trust with your audience. The best part: it lets you show that you are open to feedback while giving you key insights into the psyche of your audience.

ORM is not just limited to social media, though. It also covers comments left by visitors on your own blog and even Wikipedia pages. For good measure, let’s also add job review sites like Glassdoor and Payscale to the list. After all, employees are customers too, albeit internal. Their opinions can color customer perceptions of your brand, even if to a lesser extent. Not every social media mention may warrant a response, but online reviews are too important for an e-commerce store to ignore – even if they appear to be neutral. Given that user-generated content enjoys top of mind recall with shoppers, ORM can help you build relationships and highlight your brand values.

In a nutshell, ORM lets you:

  • Understand who is saying what about your business
  • Respond proactively to false information about you
  • Provide information and advice to customers who have just discovered your product for the first time.

ORM and the Buyer’s Journey

From discovering your store for the first time to finally making a purchase, ORM plays a critical role throughout the typical buyer journey. By the time a prospect lands on your site for the very first time, he has seen multiple reviews about your product. According to BrightLocal, 90% of customers base their purchase decisions on user reviews online. As they look around your site, many might have questions about your product or its uses. A quick response to their questions on social media can clinch the sale before a competitor can swoop in.

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If the shopper is convinced that your product is the answer to his needs, he might wonder if it is worth paying extra for shipping it to an alternate address. Negative reviews – and how you’ve addressed them in the past – can play a big role in a customer’s final decision. Responding within 24 hours can help you allay concerns and offer clear answers on sticking points like returns or warranties. If comments from other users indicate that you offer returns at no cost, the shopper will have all the validation he needs. He will probably proceed straight to checkout.

Building a community of engaged followers is every brand’s dream, one that is worth burning the midnight oil over. However every so often, there comes along a dispute that threatens to derail your carefully cultivated brand image. You could choose to not address it and alienate your audience. However, responding promptly, owning up to the problem and offering alternatives can earn you the admiration of your customers. Thus, ORM can help you turn around a potential disaster and minimize customer attrition.

ORM and Building a Brand

Now for the big question: How do I use ORM to build my brand?

If you have just launched your online store, spending time on ORM can let you qualify leads organically. Customer comments can provide social proof to others that your service is dependable. To earn the trust of your customers, you’d need to focus on responding to SOS comments quickly, acknowledging feelings and offering quick resolutions to the extent possible. And, don’t forget to thank customers for their feedback!

3 Step Formula to Building your Brand with ORM

1. Monitor Social Conversations

Set-up-Google-Alerts

If your budget does not allow you to invest in specialized ORM software, a little ingenuity can see you through! Set up Google Alerts for your brand name and mentions which can help you track negative reviews or third party content. Analyzing social media conversations lets you identify the conversations that need to be addressed on a priority basis.

Pro tip: Empower your customer support team to respond proactively to customer reviews but lay down a set of ground rules in terms of tone, exceptions to policy and turnaround time.

2. Analyze sentimental factors

In responding to customer reviews, put feelings first and facts later. This is because online user experiences are fundamentally driven by emotion. Online reviews are usually emotional reactions to products and services in terms of how they make customers feel. A large part of ORM activities is geared towards identifying the degree to which customers are dissatisfied and quantifying the emotional response. This helps brands identify the best way to resolve problems to the customer’s satisfaction.

Pro tip: When responding to negative comments, pace the customers’ emotions and use empathy to create rapport.

3. Reputation building

Next, it is time to repair the damage done by negative reviews. A good response is objective and practical. It is also important to thank the reviewer for expressing his thoughts. The faster you respond, the better your chances of mending fences with the reviewer.

Besides, responding to customer reviews can improve your search rankings. Avoid standardized responses as far as possible as they can make you appear insincere. If you don’t have an immediate answer, promise to follow-up as soon as possible.

You can counter negative comments by developing high-quality content and gradually suppress them over a period of time.

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To avoid the classic ‘too-little-too-late’ reaction from upset customers, responding to reviews on social media or review sites as fast as possible is critical. The best time can differ depending on your niche, but a good rule of thumb is 24-48 hours.

Last words

When sales volumes peak, responding to comments and reviews promptly is crucial for positive customer experience. In an ideal world, you’d have plenty of time on your hands to give each customer the attention they deserve. However, tasks can multiply without warning and overwhelm even the most seasoned in-house team.

Customer experience is not something you want to cut corners on, given the increasing cost of marketing and retention. If you are faced with the all-too-familiar cost v/s benefit dilemma, hiring an expert customer support team could be the answer

Helplama’s team of locally-based customer support specialists can relieve your in-house team within hours and provide customers with a high-quality experience, 24X7. Our ‘zero-risk’ guarantee means that you have nothing to lose if you decide to opt-out later. Helplama is a great fit for small businesses looking to scale their support teams at an affordable cost. You can count on us to deliver when it really matters.