How The Internet Can Ruin Your BusinessNobody can deny that the internet has provided countless benefits to both businesses and consumers alike. Never before has there been such an easy way to reach new markets. Car dealers, for instance who once relied on roadside sales pitches and local or regional newspaper advertisements to reach an audience of just a few thousand can now instantly display their wares to millions of buyers nationwide.

Consumers have perhaps benefitted even more so, from the comfort of their armchair they can access literally countless numbers of products filtered by price, colour, and numerous other variants.

Your Online Reputation

If you’re one of the business people who have taken advantage of the explosive growth of the internet then you’ll be aware that whilst picking the fruit of the internets bountiful bows you may occasionally come across the odd thorn. Just how you choose to deal with these thorns can make or break you and with the more recent updates to the Google algorithms, customer reviews are gaining more importance on just how well your business website ranks.

User Generated Content

Regardless of if you conduct all your business online or whether you use the internet to attract customers to your bricks and mortar premises, you can’t expect to drink from this font without being prepared to give something back.

Lets forget about your customers for a minute and look at your own online habits. Let’s say you’re looking for a new car, you’ll perhaps have an idea of what you want, A 4wd or a sporty saloon. You’ll no doubt narrow it down to a few models and then you’ll start to read reviews that are generated by actual owners. You’ll notice the repeat comments about fuel consumption or poor visibility. One by one you’ll narrow your choice down the the one car that suits your budget and requirements.

You’ll then perhaps use one of the many car classified advert websites and start to look for your ideal car. You can sort by price, location, etc. Once you’ve found a dealer then you can simply type the car dealer name into Google along with the word “review” and you’ll get an instant snapshot of how that company is treating it’s customers. And it’s this bit that can make or break you. This is how the internet can ruin your business.

Actually that last statement isn’t strictly true. The internet doesn’t ruin businesses. Shoddy customer services ruin businesses. Before the internet when we all bought our products from local shops, when our town centres were bustling and when our local papers were thick enough to make a paperboys arms ache, customer service wasn’t as crucial. Sure there was word of mouth but that is organic bad press. Let me explain further. Back in the early 1990s if you bought a dodgy car from your local car dealer and received a service lower than expected then you’d perhaps tell your mate in the pub, your wife might mention it to a friend a work and at best the story would reach perhaps a dozen people. After a month or so the story would be forgotten by all but those who had the bad experience.

With the popularity of the internet however, any misdemeanour by a business can find itself manifested as an angry and cutting review visible to anyone who searches for a relevant service in a certain area. If you’re a car dealer on the Wirral for instance then you’ll find anyone who you’ve chosen to upset over the years may well post an account of the incident for all eternity on one of the many popular review sites. Worst still, you’ll be hard pressed to get the comment removed as long as they haven’t used any profanity. And trust me, these reviews are damaging! Visible to not just a dozen people for a month but to hundreds of thousands of potential customers FOREVER!

Customer Complaints – Make Or Break Your Business

Google places great importance on user generated content as they believe that the internet should be self governing. A survival of the fittest if you like. Google is getting more local, you’ll see the local results on page one each time you do a search, beneath each listing you’ll see an invitation to submit a review.

The thing you have to remember though is this! The large majority of people who leave reviews are either people who feel like they’ve received outstanding service or those who feel cheated, let down or unvalued. Anyone in between will rarely take the time to submit a review.

Review Your Customer Service Policy

If you run your business with the intention of providing the minimal level of service or if you cut corners when giving your customers value for money then let’s face it. You don’t deserve to succeed. If you already have a website out there and are doing battle on a large stage with other online business owners then you need to up your game, you need to be the best of the best. This will pay dividends as people will willingly share your Facebook posts, leave glowing reviews and more importantly, return again and again to do business with you. It’s easy to gain fans, nice little touches can go an awful long way. This article isn’t about doing well, You no doubt have your own ideas on how little touches can go a long way. What happens however when YOU FAIL and your customer has a complaint? How do you handle it?

Turning A Complaint Into A Recommendation

How often have you received bad service only to raise a complaint and then be pleasantly surprised at just how professionally your concerns are addressed? On the flip side, how many times have you raised a concern only to be shouted down and almost insulted by the business owner? Both these outcomes will create a customer who is likely to leave an online review.

How many times have you read a review online that goes something like “There was a small problem but the staff were superb and sorted it with minimum fuss” That’s a good review! Much better in fact than one that reads “DO NOT BUY, this seller ripped me off and didn’t care about my issues”.

user generated contentIf you receive a complaint you should welcome it. Sit the customer down and first of all apologise for not meeting their expectations, listen carefully to their complaint. If the complaint is about an error that you or your business has made then don’t make excuses, that’s the worst possible thing you can do. Instead, admitting the fault will instantly neutralise the situation and will also diffuse any hostility that may exist. If you’re unsure how to proceed then ask them what you can do to make them a happy customer. More often than not, it’ll be less than you imagine.

Sure you might end up making less profit out of the deal but by putting right any wrong you’ll gain a happy customer, one that may well leave you a positive online review (especially if you request it) but more importantly you’ll avoid ever getting a poor review from a disgruntled customer. Each poor review WILL cost you money over the years. For the sake of losing a little profit on one sale you can prevent this happening and if you’re lucky, you’ll turn the complaint into a positive review that’ll attract new clients year after year.

You can see in the image on the left what percentage of people are influenced by online reviews when making buying decisions. Bear in mind, this report was in 2010. The importance of user reviews has grown exponentially since then.

How Can The Internet Ruin Your Business?

Like I said earlier in this article, The internet can’t ruin your business, your attitude towards the complaint can though, and trust me, in todays world, news travels FAST! Have a rethink about how you handle your complaints, welcome them, put them right and learn from them. Turn each negative into a positive and watch your negative reviews give way to positive reviews.

 

 
photo credit: dtietze1 via photopin cc

About 

SEO Geek, Web Designer and Online Marketing Advisor. Steve works with businesses of all sizes across the UK and blogs about small business, marketing, web design and SEO at http://stevegrady.org