Reputation management is the process of overseeing every factor that influences public perception of your business. It's exactly what it sounds like — managing your brand's reputation everywhere, both online and offline.
Your brand reputation depends 1. on you delivering a great customer experience in every interaction a consumer has with you, and 2. on you encouraging those consumers to share their experiences in the form of referrals and reviews. After all, nothing beats good old fashioned word of mouth. But in today's digital world, these interactions are occurring across dozens of touch points and channels, making reputation management a greater challenge — and a greater opportunity — than ever before.
Why does reputation management matter?
It's simple. Your brand's online reputation directly influences whether customers choose to do business with you. Reviews are a huge part of this. 88% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations, and research suggests that reviews produce an average 18% uplift in sales.
But don't conflate reputation management with review management — reviews are simply one important part of a holistic reputation management strategy. Reviews tell the story of your customer experience. Your customer experience is built on how you deliver on your brand promise throughout every stage of the customer journey. Your customer experience is of particular importance when it comes to loyalty and retention, too: 52% of the time customers switch brands, it is directly related to customer experience.*
Building a great reputation begins with providing this great customer experience online. How? By delivering consistent, comprehensive, and correct information everywhere your customers might interact with your business. Your brand must be informative and reliable across the many maps, apps, and AI-powered services consumers are using every day — at the critical moments of intent when customers need your products or services.
Doing this means thinking about and managing all the facts about your business, everywhere customers might seek answers (e.g., Google Q&A, via voice assistants like Amazon Alexa, and of course, in search engine results).
Delivering a great customer experience that boosts your online reputation can't happen if your business doesn't surface in local search results — or if it shows up with incorrect details (approximately 80% of US internet users prefer to use a search engine to find information about local businesses). If a customer can't find your phone number, sees incorrect product information, or visits the wrong address, they'll be frustrated and unlikely to return — and more likely to write a bad review.
What role do reviews play in reputation management?
You probably know that reviews shape consumer perception of your business and impact their decision to visit, but you may not be aware that reviews also affect whether your business shows up in search results at all. Google pre-filters for searches including the term "best" (e.g. "best Italian restaurant), and will often only show results for businesses with a 4-star rating or above.
If you are already delivering a great customer experience across touch points, you can have a further positive impact on your online reputation by responding to reviews. Businesses that respond to reviews see, on average, a .28 increase in their star-rating** — which can boost public perception of your brand, and help you show up in more search results for those terms like "best" and "awesome."
Check back next week for the second installment of our reputation management series. We'll get into the details of how you can improve your star rating, which reviews you should always respond to, and more.
Explore more strategies inThe Complete Guide to Reputation Management.
*Gartner/CEB Global 2016
**Yext study, 2018