Online reputation management can make or break your business.

Online reputation management can make or break your business.

You can’t put too high a price or place too much value on reputation management.

The reputation your business has with your customers—new, old and potential alike—is the foundation for your success or failure. Consider these three statistics: about 82 percent of consumers say they visit review sites in order to decide which product or service to purchase. Also, about 97 percent of consumers say they read reviews about local businesses before they visit them and 90 percent say those reviews influence their own decisions.

Managing your reputation through online review sites and other means is a tricky proposition in the 24/7 world of the Internet today. Here are four things you simply must do if you’re to have a solid chance at it:

Pay attention.
First and foremost, you must absolutely be paying attention to what is being said about your company online, both positive and negative. Set up a google alert or visit a site like to see what’s being said. Conversations are happening all the time and you need to know about them if you’re going to react. Alternatively, you can use a reputation management service.

Be fast and proactive.
If you see a negative review, don’t ignore it and don’t wait for a bevy of positive reviews to come in to push it out of sight. See if you can research the situation, and reach out to the reviewer and ask him or her to contact you offline—and out of the public eye. The quicker you do this, the better result you will have, both with the offended customer and those watching to see how quickly you respond to issues. When someone posts a positive review, thank them and ask them to introduce themselves the next time they’re in your shop.

Make adjustments.
Use the responses to improve your business and reward your staff. If a particular team member is continually being mentioned in positive reviews, give him or her a reward and thank them in front of the rest of your team. If they’re being mentioned in negative reviews, find out if there is something personal going on that may be affecting their performance, or take some kind of disciplinary measure—as long as you know you are acting based on fact, not someone’s subjective opinion. If someone mentions something that could improve your business, take their advice. After all, it’s free!

Stay involved.
If you can’t set aside time each day to review online review sites, make sure you use a service that can and that will offer you regular reports. At Pistn, we have a system that promotes positive reviews—which, in turn, helps your Search Engine Optimization (SEO) rankings—in part by providing review request cards to our clients. Those cards can help you promote good reviews and head off bad reviews.

Managing your reputation is one of the most important ways you can improve your business and build your customer base. By paying attention to these four essentials, you’ll be well on your way. Do you know of any other important tips? Let us know in the comments!