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Growing up my father always seemed to lead me into conversations about how being proactive is better than being reactive.  After a lot of back and forth and some growing up on my end, I found out that he is right in almost every situation.  Well when managing your businesses brand online the same rules apply that my father always taught me.  It is better to be proactive than reactive, but where do you begin?

  1. Monitor Relevant Websites – There are countless different websites out there that allow the public to write reviews about your business.  Do you have an effective process in place to monitor ALL relevant sites and have a clear picture of how you are doing across the web?  If not, this should be step 1 in a proactive plan.  Figure out where you stand currently and where users have been talking about your business.
  1. Solicit Feedback – Make sure you ask for reviews often.  Have a process in place to build e-mail lists of your clients and ask them frequently for feedback on specific websites that you deem important to your business.  Try and be as direct as possible, telling them how important reviews are to your business and how you use that information to improve on your customer service ect.  It is shown that solicited feedback is much more often positive than non-solicited, so the more activity you can have in this realm the better off you will be.
  1. Respond – Have a system in place to thank customers for positive feedback and react quickly to any negative feedback that comes about.  Make certain that this system is consistent and professional.  As with any business, there may be battles that cannot be won, but this is certainly the exception not the rule.  Make sure to thank in public settings wherever possible and also never forgot that anything you write can and will be used against you in the “court of yelp”.  Meaning that even through you send a private comment if the user is upset enough they may post that comment publically, so keep it professional and succinct and never promise anything you cannot deliver.
  1. Repeat – Take numbers 1-3 and have a plan to review them monthly or quarterly.  Make sure there are not new reviews on sites that you are not currently monitoring, make sure your system to build an e-mail list is intact and that you are asking for feedback, and last make sure every review (within reason), has been responded to and closed out.  This will make your online customer service top notch and endear customers for the long term.

The reality of the current business world is that online reviews are a huge deciding factor, whether or not someone decides to do business with you.  If you have a measurable system in place you will be putting in the extra effort to both endear your customers and protect your business from the negativity that can exist on these websites.  While there is not a perfect solution, I assure you that a proactive approach will be much more cost effective and fruitful for your business than a reactive one.