One of the most notorious enemies for small business these days is the consumer website Ripoff Report. On this consumer complaint forum, people are allowed to post complaints about businesses, services provided by businesses, and even about other individuals. The claims do not require documentation or any proof of validity. Because anyone can pretty much say anything they want on this site, it is a dangerous forum for businesses that are struggling to keep up with reputation management and build positive names for them.
Though the website has been around for several years and is powerful and large enough to appear on the first page of Google searches, there are three major ways to combat the effects of postings that appear there:
Resist the urge to comment on the site
When you find out there are complaints listed against your business on this or any other site, your first inclination is probably to go onto the forum and refute the claims. Resist the urge to do this. First, any effort made by you to provide an explanation can be misconstrued, especially when you do not control the venue where your comments appear. You have no way of knowing whether or not your comments will be taken out of context, or even “moderated” until they no longer say what you were meaning to convey.
If you can identify a real customer who has done business with you who may not have been satisfied with the service you provided and has gone onto one of these complaint sites to complain, you may have better luck trying to contact the customer directly for a resolution. This direct approach will do wonders for your reputation management and you will be viewed as a company that cares about its customers.
Also, any time you access the site and provide more content for it you are helping to keep the site current and relevant, which will make it continue to rank even higher in the search engines. Not going to the site and providing further threads to the discussions will help you do your part in keeping the site off the top of the lists.
The more active you are on social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter, the more relevant content you provide online to appear in searches and the easier you will find reputation management to be. These venues not only provide you with ways to further brand and advertise your business but they also give you online visibility in the ways that you as a business owner want. You control the messages you post and since you do, you ensure that your messages about what your company really does carry some weight against the negative postings. With your social media networking accounts, you can also post about other relevant companies and articles in your industry. You will help to anchor yourself as an expert in your field and you will also help to promote the industry as a whole.
Getting negative comments on a complaint site is almost a rite of passage for some businesses. If your company has not done anything wrong and the comments are truly simply people with nothing better to do than spend time online posting complaints, your business has finally made the radar of catching someone’s attention in the first place. Work to provide service and products to your customers that they will appreciate and want to make positive posts about. Satisfied customers are just as likely to post their experiences as dissatisfied ones are. The negative posts simply have more visible venues to post.
Make it easy for customers to contact your company directly with praise and comments of dissatisfaction. This way, you are not only aware of what is going on, but you also provide your own venue for customer comments. You may be able to request permission from the satisfied customers to use their reviews to help tamp down negative ones.
The best way towards online reputation management for your company despite this complaint site is to admit to any mistakes made in a contrite manner and to work to prevent further mistakes from occurring. Also, consumers respect businesses that focus on delivering excellent customer service and that take pride in personally handling any issues that come up, to the customer’s satisfaction.