I recently watched an episode of Black Mirror in which every person was rated for each social situation, such as their interactions at a party or how they went about ordering a latte. I wondered, is this one of those times where life imitates art?

Several years ago, Facebook was synced with an app called Lulu in which women could rate their dates and ex-boyfriends. Gents, in case you just spilled your coffee on your lap, it is going to get worse. Imagine Tinder for business.

While the spotlight is on product ratings, the ability to rate every service is coming to a webpage near you. Professors are rated on ratemyprofessors.com, and plumbers are rated on Angie's List. Actually, I have a better idea- could we rate all the attorneys? I have some pent-up frustration.

All of us, regardless of profession, should be prepared for the day that our every activity is evaluated online, and our social currency is evaluated in real time. There are facts of this already in evidence of this today.

According to Invesp:

  • 90 percent of consumers read online reviews
  • 86 percent will hesitate to purchase from a business with negative reviews
  • On average, consumers spend 31 percent more when a company has positive reviews
  • 92 percent will utilize a local business that has a rating of four stars or more

Both business-to-consumer (B2C) and business-to-business (B2B) companies will have to be uber-aware of their digital reputation. Not only to shape perception, but to defend their honor online.

Here are some keys to managing your online reputation:

Be aware of social influence bias.

We often read canned responses to negative comments online. When the manager at the Hilton says, "We strive for excellent service", I am looking for a bucket where I can heave. Counteracting negative ratings needs to be handled with finesse and authenticity.

Developing abundant content allows you to remediate any negative press. This is particularly important in managing "herding"- the propensity for people to pile on to a positive or negative response. A study conducted by MIT proved customers were significantly influenced by the most recent ratings they read. Companies need to act responsibly, but there are methods to organize ratings in such a manner that readers are not overly influenced by the most damming reviews.

Control the narrative, control the herd.

One of my clients, an online retailer, faced such a circumstance when they shorted numerous customers on a hot item during the holiday season. The haters came out of the woodwork, torching the brand online. Our client sent gift cards to every customer that ordered the item (even the vast majority who never complained). Very quickly, the online "herd" switched direction and praised the retailer for owning the problem and taking accountability.

Manage your social currency.

According to Wharton Business School, people are utilizing ratings because they are seeking "reassurance" that they are not buying bad products. In an age when people have become more skeptical, good marketers view ratings as a subset of their social currency.

Use a blended approach to control social currency. Tactics you can employ include:

  1.  Hiring an expert or celebrity spokesperson to make a case about your offer (or overcome bad press)
  2. Partner with a university to commission a study to prove your value
  3. Promote high-profile media mentions
  4. Use the logos of clients to validate your offer
  5. Use social media and SEO (search engine optimization) to drive positive ratings

Leverage artificial intelligence (AI) and other technologies to improve your offer.

The promise of ratings is to improve one's business model. Ratings should be an indicator of client satisfaction, and client satisfaction an indicator of loyalty. It feels like we have lost our way in this regard.

AI offers an opportunity to learn based on the movements of our customers, including their ratings. For example, are there demographic or psychographic segments that tend to rate an activity higher than the others? Do other factors matter, such as who served them, time of day, etc.? Tools like ReviewPush are emerging that will allow companies to monitor and manage online ratings more readily. 

In order to control reviews and leverage them for competitive advantage, have a thoughtful strategy to manage your online reputation. You can manage your reputation affirmatively, but do so with ease and grace.

Published on: Apr 4, 2018