happy woman holding shopping bags
Business reputation management company Reputation.com is expanding into predictive analytics, with the hopes to forecast trends and know what customers are thinking. — Getty Images/Alessandro Biascioli

Knowing what customers are saying online has become critical for any store, restaurant, hotel, auto dealer or service provider doing business today.

But what if those businesses could predict what customers will be saying before they say it, and react to prevent small complaints from becoming big problems?

Reputation.com, one of the companies in the fast-growing field of reputation management services for businesses, is looking to make the leap this year into predictive analytics that can forecast trends and possible customer service issues.

“We’ll actually be able to tell, based on certain actions that we see with the data, the types of things that a call center’s going to have to answer when people call, or give the client predictive analytics about what their customers are thinking,” Joe Fuca, chief executive of Silicon Valley-based Reputation.com told CO—.

Reputation.com initially was part of the same company as Reputation Defender, which markets its online reputation management services to individual customers. Reputation.com was created to be the business-facing arm of that company, and to create solutions for corporate clients. The two divisions separated in 2018, and Reputation Defender was sold off as a separate company.

Reputation.com is known for its reports that rank the online reputation scores of industries such as auto, health care and retail that need to keep their customers happy to stay in business.

The review economy

Online reviews, and the increasingly important role they play in how consumers research and make decisions about products and businesses, have created demand for companies that monitor how businesses are presenting themselves online, and what customers are saying about them.

BrightLocal, a search engine optimization marketing firm that conducts an annual survey on how consumers respond to online reviews, found in 2019 that 82% of consumers read online reviews for local businesses; 91% say positive reviews make them more likely to use a business; and that the average consumer reads 10 reviews before feeling able to trust a business.

A recent Reputation.com report found that the auto dealer, hospitality, dining and real estate industries had higher average reputation scores than retail, healthcare and finance.

The power of both positive and negative reviews is that you can build an authentic relationship with the customer and engage them.

Joe Fuca, CEO, Reputation.com

Engage

Reputation.com helps businesses manage their online reputations. Read on for more tips on how to respond to your business's reviews — both good and bad.



Even bad reviews can be good for business

The reputation scores, Fuca told CO—, are based on the volume, recency and length of online reviews; how the business responds to reviews and online comments; social media engagement; and how the business appears in online searches in terms of accuracy of location listings and contact information.

Businesses increasingly are waking up to the fact that lots of reviews, both negative and positive, are better than no reviews.

“The volume of the reviews literally drives the reputation scores in a big way because if you’re not asking for reviews, you’re not interacting with your customers,” Fuca said.

One of the worst mistakes businesses can make, Fuca said, is not responding to reviews.

“The power of both positive and negative reviews is that you can build an authentic relationship with the customer and engage them,” he said. “You can thank them for giving you positive feedback or take corrective action to improve an experience.”

Online reviews are a big issue for businesses, no matter their size, said Bob Phibbs, business strategist and chief executive of The Retail Doctor, a retail consultancy.

“You do have to respond to comments, and all you really want to show somebody is ‘I’m a reasonable retailer,’” Phibbs said. “You don’t promise the moon but I always encourage them to say, ‘We’re sorry you feel that way. Please call me at this number or email me here and let’s get this fixed,’” he told CO—.

In Phibbs’ view, the worst mistake is responding to a negative comment with anger. “If you get emotionally caught up in it, to me that’s the worst.”

 Joe Fuca headshot
Joe Fuca, CEO, Reputation.com. — Reputation.com

A growing business

The growing demand for online reputation management has boosted Reputation.com’s sales by 40% to 50% annually over the last four years, Fuca said. The privately owned company expects to have an annual run rate — committed contracts with clients — of $100 million by 2021.

Fuca sees predictive data analytics as the next step forward for reputation management.

Reputation.com will be testing prediction tools with some of its large clients this year “to see if we can help them predict some of the areas where they can help their customers,” Fuca said. One possible example, he said, would be predicting a surge in demand for a product that could lead it to be sold out, resulting in annoyed customers.

“One of the things that’s real important now is this whole idea of the customer journey,” Fuca said. Reputation.com, he said, has been able to track how the customer finds a store or auto dealership, what the customer thinks about their experience. The next step, he said, is helping clients figure out what that customer is likely to do next.

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Published March 11, 2020