Online damage control for security dealers

A Linear-sponsored webinar explains how to combat negative online ratings and promote good reviews
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Wednesday, December 18, 2013

CARLSBAD, Calif.—If an unhappy customer posts a negative review of your security company online, you ignore it at your peril, according to a recent webinar on how to perform online damage control and also generate positive comments on your company.

“One of the things to understand is that these are timeless; these reviews live forever,” said Nicholas Brown, who led the webinar sponsored by Linear, a security solutions provider based here. “So, having your say in those and being able to voice your opinion about various reviews that are on there and respond to them … can really define who you are as a company in the digital world.”

In the free educational webinar for Linear dealers, Brown, director of account services at Wakefield, R.I.-based Caster Communications, said guidelines for responding to negative reviews include always using facts to rebut negative claims (such as the dates, times and services performed); no name calling or degrading statements; and knowing when to move on if your response leads to an online debate.

Overall, Brown said being active online is critical for a security company today because most people turn to the Web to do some research before buying anything, including a security system.

“The Yellow Pages are dead, everyone knows that,” he said, “and having a presence on [the Web] that’s positive and representative of what you actually offer is critically important, [because] when people are blindly choosing [a security company], they’re just going to choose the one with the most stars.”

Customers review companies and give them star ratings on sites such as Yelp, Brown said. “Yelp has become incredibly popular as a review site for all different things, really starting with restaurants, but now you’ll see security companies on there and pretty much any sort of Mom and Pop shop that operates on Main Street,” he said.

He said at a minimum, security companies should focus on three top sites where consumers are most likely to go to find information about companies and post reviews.

“So, if you do nothing else, I would say going to these three places … Yahoo Local, Google Maps (which is affiliated with Google Places) and Yelp, just to find out what is currently being said, if anything, about your company and what you need to do,” Brown said.

He said security companies should set up a profile on these sites, in order to respond to what is being said about them and also generate positive news about themselves. They also can use establishing a profile as an opportunity to include keywords such as descriptors of their location and services that will make it more likely their businesses will pop up at the top of search engine sites, Brown said.

Companies should be aware if someone posts a negative review about them and do what they can to fix it, he said.

“[A review saying,] ‘Watch out! The business is run by a crook,’ … can really be damaging to your brand and if you let it linger there this is a one-sided conversation,” Brown said.

He gave an example of a review written by a woman angry because she was woken up in the middle of the night by the nonstop beeping of her security alarm. “She had called [the security company] at midnight and her husband had called twice, and they got back to her husband, and she didn’t get a call back and she was upset about that,” Brown said.

He praised the security company for responding—even though it took three months, an unacceptable delay. “You do have the opportunity to reply to these negative reviews and there shouldn’t be anything out there that doesn’t go responded to, unless you are doing really bad business, in which case, there’s not much you can say,” he said.

The company noted in its reply that it did respond to the woman’s complaint and spoke to her husband but didn’t get a chance to speak to her, and gave specific dates and times, which Brown praised. He said that replying to a negative review is also a good opportunity for a company to state its customer service policies, such as that it always responds to service calls within a set time period.

“If you have specific policies in place, don’t be afraid to list those as well,” Brown said. “…It just shows you have systems in place to handle any kind of service request.”

However, he said, the security company erred in its response to the complainant by referring to her as “pathetic.” A company’s response shouldn’t include degrading comments, because “you always want to be seen as floating above the fray,” he said.

In fact, Brown continued, “Going out of your way to please these squeaky wheels is actually a good strategy … because they’ve taken it public, it behooves you to want to fix it as much as possible. … The ultimate goal is really to turn it into a positive by demonstrating you are going above and beyond in offering this customer service that maybe your competitors wouldn’t be willing to. Ultimately, it’s going to be in the public forum and people are going to find it forever and you can even turn the one star into three or four stars just by some simple actions and paying closer attention.”

Just as a company can respond to a customer’s review, the customer can post updates after the company posts its reply. Ideally, they’ll write a positive update about the way the company addressed the problem but at times they may want to continue to fight. That’s when a company has to know when to end the conversation, Brown said.

“There’s always the importance of learning when to part ways,” he said. “… Sometimes if somebody has had such an experience where they’re just not going to let it go [and] you’ve stated your side of it and the relationship has either ended or you’ve moved on, that’s really all you can do. You don’t want to drag it out any further and have it become a boxing match from that point forward.”

And a good counterpoint to any negative review is a positive one—or, preferably, lots of them, Brown said.

“The best thing you can do is get more positive reviews because if there’s one one-star and 20 four- to five-star ratings, that’s pretty much all that people need to see that it was just one unhappy customer,” he said. 

More stars also will make your business pop up higher on search engines, he said. “Search engines love to see positive reviews and Google’s algorithm will actually rank a business higher if it has more reviews, and more positive reviews, than its competitors,” Brown said.

He said strategies for generating positive reviews include sending new customers an email thanking them for their business and urging them to share their positive experiences on various review sites; providing links to the sites from a company’s Facebook page and website; and offering incentives, such as a $10 gift card to a local restaurant, to thank those who comment.