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While customer service and quality products are crucial to the success of any business, a company’s efforts in these two areas can be undone by poor customer reviews. Reputation management must be a large part of any business marketing plan. A business owner that is not prepared to hire a reputation management professional or invest in business analytics software must stringently oversee his or her company’s social face. Reputation management tips include daily Internet monitoring, the use of free online tools and methods like search engine optimization (SEO), and encouragement of customer feedback.

No business, brick or mortar, should be without an online presence, to convey legitimacy. Social networking sites are important marketing tools. However, with consumer visits to company social media profiles come potential company hazards. While a social media site allows a consumer to market a company it also lets a disgruntled customer, malicious competitor or vindictive ex-employee to tell thousands of prospective customers that the company product or service is poor. When this happens, the business must respond quickly by responding maturely and positively. As example, a consumer who notes on a restaurant’s Facebook page that last night’s spaghetti dinner was terrific needs to be thanked. The chef might respond: “I am so happy you liked it, Christine. That recipe was handed down by my Sicilian great-grandmother. Let me know the next time you’re in. I’d like to meet you, and do try our lasagne. It’s a traditional family recipe too.”

If Christine had complained about the meal or the service, however, the quick and tactful reply might have been: “Christine, I am so sorry the service was so slow last night. We were overwhelmed by the response to our special and failed to adequately staff. That won’t happen again. As a thank you for giving us another try, please accept the free-entree coupon.”

Google is the best reputation managment firm in the US free tool for keeping an eye on what is said online about a company. An entrepreneur can set up a daily Google alert with the company name as keyword, and know right away what is being said about the firm good or bad and where. Google is also intimately involved with SEO, and companies can use this method of online marketing (through an agency that specializes in the field, or even themselves if they wish) to quickly build a strong and positive online reputation.

Testimonials are a powerful tool for marketing and reputation management. Each customer might be asked to complete an online feedback form, or rate the service on an online review site. A brick-and-mortar company might even set up an online kiosk at the store, and ask each customer to take a few minutes to rate the service. People want to hear actual customer reviews for a business before they consult them. Building a positive Yelp or ZAGAT profile might perhaps be more beneficial than any marketing campaign, simply because it provides potential customers with real life reviews.

Every company big or small must make reputation management a daily focus of every staff member, if the business is to thrive.