The reputation shields small businesses need

Picture courtesy: revoseek

I recall, somewhere around the turn of the century (historic and age-revealing as this may sound) speaking with a friend who worked as a customer service executive in a major telecommunications TV brand call center. “I know” he said, “that every time an angry customer calls our call center, raining hell on our reps, some of them, deep in their hearts, our reps joined them in cursing the company…”. Many customers were dissatisfied with the service, non-existent transparency, the bad quality of the tech service – you name it.  So, the reps had to cope with scores of angry customers on a daily basis. But in those days, in an undisrupted entertainment market, with very limited competition this was merely a dent on the telco’s annual reports.

Today customer dissatisfaction also shows social media and especially on ratings and reviews, for many major brands. Telcos, as well as banks, airlines, car rentals, supermarkets and many other big businesses and corporations get their fair share of bad reviews. But let’s face it – in most cases, negative customer reviews are not even a bender fender for these brands, whereas for a small or local business – every negative review can become a media crisis by itself.

Why? I call it the reputation shield.

Consumer brands (as other medium and big businesses and corporations) are heavily invested with promotion, advertising and vast marketing budgets – all made to ensure brand awareness and reputation with owned media. Media crises can and will evolve on social or on press, but for these, corporations and brands employ professionals and budgets – all ready to their best to put out the fire.

What’s more – customers react on a daily basis with many major brands – for example your ISP or cellular carrier. Big brands are more than often omnipresent in their consumers lives, paid attention too by consumers and frequently engaged. In short – consumers usually have their own first-hand experience with the brand.

Picture courtesy of GOT

And what about local or small businesses?

Some are present in our daily routine – the local diner, the barber we go to once in a while (yes, I still have my hair!) or our doctor. But for many other professionals or service providers, many encounters are a dive into the unknown. A plumber, electrician, roofer, a lawyer – these are people that – if all works OK, we try to engage with as little as possible.

And here’s another fact – most small businesses can’t allocate significant marketing budgets – if any at all. Hopefully a local listing, maybe a result somewhere on search engines (guess which one…) a mention in a local newspaper or a lonesome billboard – definitely not the all-out aerial carpeting big brands can afford.

And this is where online ratings and reviews come into place as a major influencer on consumers’ decisions. Numerous researches show the constant rise in the effect of online reviews on consumer decisions, especially when it comes to SMB’s (I’ll discuss this widely in my next post. Promise). When a consuer lacks knowledge about the service providers they need – they will ask around. So in most cases – reviews are the first encounter your potential new customer has with your business. With no previous experience with your work, no exposure to prime time or prime location ads, even less word to mouth than ever, your future customers will look for reviews from other customers on directories, listings and search engines.

And this is your reputation shield…

It’s thin, it requires maintenance, it’s hardly owned by you – but your online reputation in the form of online ratings and reviews (and social media to a lesser effect) will alternately become your business’s main marketing effort.

The take?

Smb’s and local businesses need to put work and effort to maintain a steady flow or authentic reviews. This should be their first and foremost effort.

There are many more other reasons to put a specific effort on this medium which will: SEO, customer communication, business vitality and lots more and there are many ways to nurture and thrive on online ratings and reviews – I’ll discuss this too.

Promise.

Small businesses too need a reputation shield. Courtesy: GOT

 

Features image courtesy of http://stargate.wikia.com

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