Keeping Up Appearances, of Your Online Presence

Keeping Up Appearances

« Blog | Written by ezfacility | | (0) Comments

Recently, here in New York City, I was helping a friend research options for a swimming facility. We visited Yelp.com, which, as everybody knows, is the place to go for the inside scoop on any and every business imaginable. A search on Yelp for “gym swimming pools” pulled up a long list of gyms, health clubs, and fitness centers that have pools. At first we were overwhelmed. Then we realized how easy Yelp makes it to weed choices out. Does it have less than four stars? Forget it.
That’s for starters. Once you begin reading the reviews, it becomes crystal clear which places are worth trying and which ones are better off ignored. For one club that received two stars, for example, we found the following reviews: “Limited availability for lap swimming and the club does not adhere to its weekly pool schedule,” “There have been lots of problems ranging from overcrowded, stinky locker rooms with broken lockers to lack of morning classes for people who work,” and, simply, “Horrible!”
The same gym had one highly positive review—but the negative voices drowned it out. This is all well and good for consumers. But what if you’re a gym owner, where your facility has a low rating, and comments are negative, even though you know you deserve better? The fact is, online customer reviews can make or break you. In order to ensure a healthy digital profile, one that won’t damage your chances of drawing in prospective clients and winning new members, you’ve got to take action.
The first step is to know what’s out there about you. Take a look at Yelp and other similar customer review sites (such as Angie’s List, the Better Business Bureau, Epinions, and Google+ Local). Are there reviews for your business? Keep in mind that having reviews is a good thing—just as negative reviews can have a negative impact, positive reviews can have a positive one. You want people to be able to find you on Yelp (if they can’t, they’ll wonder why you’re not there); you just want to control the impressions they form when they do. So take a look, hope you’re there, and read carefully through the reviews you find.
Now, here’s the thing: On Yelp and many other sites, you can respond publicly to comments that are posted. That’s right—you have a chance to set the record straight, and if you handle things graciously enough, you might be able to turn a negative review into an opportunity, a chance for the marketplace to see how reasonable, generous, and responsive your facility is. When my friend an I found a response to a negative review of a local gym, we were impressed: The response included an apology, an explanation, an assertion that the customer was right, and an offer to make up for the bad experience. We kept that one on the list of places to check out.
If a mere response feels inadequate to you, or if you’re overwhelmed by the number of customer review sites out there or the daunting task of keeping track of everything said about your facility online, keep in mind that there are companies that help you clean up your online presence. Reputation.com, Reputation Changer, Big Blue Robot, Metal Rabbit Media—these are just a few outfits that find ways to push potentially damaging online content further down in search result lists and pull positive materials to the top. Some of them are pricey, but when it comes to presenting your best face to potential customers, the cost may be worth it.

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