Online reviews / Pexels

In today’s digital world, maintaining a strong online reputation is vital.

Expanding a company’s online presence is important, yet it is not enough, as business leaders need to also monitor its reputation and manage the narrative.

Overseeing a company’s online reputation is crucial whatever the industry or target market. Negative reviews can deter potential customers and hinder business partnerships, hiring, and also the ability to get funding, among other aspects of running a business. Studies have found that over 99.9 per cent of customers read reviews when they shop online, with 96 per cent of customers searching for negative reviews specifically in order to identify a company’s weaknesses.

Business leaders, together with their digital and social media teams, must aim to drive organic, positive content about the company, while also addressing any potential issues that result in negative reviews.

Hence, here are six steps business leaders need to follow in order to address any negative online comments about their companies, protecting its reputation in the process.

1) Recognise the issue

Whenever a business leader sees a comment about their company, the worst thing they can do is fail to act.

Business leaders need to have a response ready when they see such reviews, as it is essential they show that the company cares about what people have to say and that it is responsive.

Failing to address online comments can make the problem worse than it really is, spiralling out of the management team’s control.

2) Respond quickly

Business leaders must reply to online comments immediately and honestly.

This will show consumers that that the problem is of great priority to the company, and that it is working to sort out the issue.

A response must demonstrate an acknowledgement and understanding of the issue, while in the process also restating the company’s brand position.

3) Remain respectful

Being respectful towards customers is essential, yet many business leaders take it for granted.

Business leaders must take online comments seriously and avoid being overly defensive, as it can suggest that they are not open to criticism or may have something to hide.

Furthermore, the way a company and its team tackles certain online comments can have a striking effect on the company’s brand image, for better or worse.

4) Apologise when you are wrong

When business leaders or companies admit that they are wrong or that they have made a mistake, the public opinion about them can greatly benefit.

Acknowledging an error, offering a sincere apology, and suggesting ways of resolving the problem can go a long way in helping companies retain the online image that they have built up over the years.

One example of this is Sony’s data breach in 2011. The breach, which was one of the largest in history, saw the information of 77 million PlayStation users being leaked. The CEO had to personally apologise for the problem, and the company provided customers with a month of its PlayStation Plus subscription as well as identity theft insurance for free.

5) Highlight the company’s mission

Addressing online criticism also gives business leaders the opportunity to remind everyone what the company is all about.

Companies need to restate who they are, what they stand for, and why customers should want to do business with them.

6) Be authentic and transparent with customers

The rise in misrepresentation and corruption among businesses has prompted consumers to feel more hesitant about fully putting their trust in companies.

Customers are seeking great honest, sincerity, and integrity from brands.

Therefore, business leaders must ensure that the company has an approach in place that promotes both authenticity and transparency. This will make it more difficult for trolls and social media haters to target the company.

Authenticity and transparency are tied to one another, as the former ensures the company is aligning to its core beliefs, while the latter is the proof that it is sticking by it and delivering on its promise. As these two qualities are developed, the company will have a closer connection with customers.

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