Don't kid yourself. No business can afford to ignore the fact that consumers are using social media and online review apps in ever increasing numbers to publicly express their experiences with products and services.To do so would be tantamount to allowing a disgruntled customer to go unattended, screaming in the middle of your store 24/7/365.This paradigm has given consumers the power to greatly affect a small business' online reputation. So what should your business do?
Don't ignore your customers. One of the biggest mistakes a business can make (both large and small) would be failing to engage their customer base.The internet has facilitated infinite scrutiny of your brand; which is the double edged sword that comes with the benefit of limitless reach. But businesses should embrace this event, not shy away from it. Negative reviews are not the kiss of death, but rather, more opportunities to improve upon your product/service and another opportunity to show your customer base that you care about them.Thus your small business can effectively harness the feedback that these online review sites and social media platforms afford twofold:
- Your business can directly and expeditiously address all customer concerns and issues demonstrating that your number one priority is customer service satisfaction.Your business may not be able to ultimately satisfy every unhappy customer but the fact that your staff is making a good faith effort (very publicly) to resolve troubling situations maintains the integrity of your online reputation.
- With these newly available and highly popular social media and online review platforms your company will finally have access to immediate and accurate first-hand customer experiences. Instead of shying away from this feedback, utilize it for what it is: an invaluable training tool.
But what if your small business has a good online reputation? Shouldn't you just leave well enough alone? The answer is, "No." Because of the ever-changing nature of the way the internet functions the conventional wisdom of even 6 months ago is no longer applicable today.The fact is that your small business is actually harming its ability to attain and maintain a strong digital footprint by such seemingly small oversights.If your business does not acknowledge and engage online customer feedback, even if it is positive feedback, your activity will be "seen" as a social media fail and will be bumped further down in the rankings than your competition.
As an industry consultant, I can tell you that ignoring your customer's online reviews and feedback whether it is positive or negative will undoubtedly cause you to lose momentum regarding your online reputation as well as lose your small business precious income.
*Note: This was written by a Yahoo! contributor. Do you have a small business story that you'd like to share? Sign up with the Yahoo! Contributor Network to start publishing your own finance articles.