Last year we hosted a very insightful webinar with Customer Service expert Chip Bell based on his best-selling book “Wired and Dangerous: How Your Customers Have Changed and What to Do About It”. What does Chip Bell mean by “wired and dangerous “? He is referring to how customers can affect your online reputation. With the dawning of smartphones, tablets and notebooks, we have multiple, very easy ways to stay “wired” or connected to the internet. By “dangerous”, Chip is referring to the damage customers can do by sharing negative content – in the form of customer reviews about a company – on the internet . As Chip so cleverly puts it: Word of mouth, whether positive or negative, has now been replaced by “word of mouse”. The ability to post content is just a mouse-click or phone-tap away! A very happy customer might visit your company’s review site such as Google Reviews or Yelp, give you a 5-star review and kudos for your exceptional service. An unhappy customer will do the exact opposite. They’ll give you one star and will vent all their frustration in a long and detailed rant about their negative experience.
“If you make customers unhappy in the physical world, they might each tell 6 friends. If you make customers unhappy on the Internet, they can each tell 6,000 friends.” – Jeff Bezos
What is Online Reputation Management (ORM)?
Have you ever done a Google search on your or another company? What shows up on the first page of your search results? A company that provides a product or service will more than likely have customer reviews and ratings very early in the search results, along with any social media sites. Since the majority of consumers are now computer and internet savvy, most will do their due diligence and check out a company, hotel, restaurant or service online. They’ll read what other consumers have to say about their experience before using that business or service. For this reason, it is very important to not only monitor but also manage your company’s online reputation.
Online search results are a potential consumer’s first impression, and may be the deciding factor on whether or not they become your client, guest or customer. For this reason, it is very important to make sure you company not only has a strong online presence, but a positive one. Middle to larger size companies typically hire a full-time Online Reputation Manager to manage the company’s online presence and reputation. Smaller business owners will either take care of this themselves, or hire a consultant to provide this service.
Managing Your Company’s Online Presence
The first step is to assess your company’s online presence and reputation is by conducting online searches using various search engines. Do any review sites come up? If so, the first step would be to make sure your company “claims” that review site by clicking on “claim this site” and following a three or four step verification process, so your company is authorized to manage that site. A review site such as Yelp, can work very much in your company’s favor, since it is like a storefront for your business, which can be enhanced with photos, details about your product or service and a link to your website. Once your company takes control of the site, you can designate an employee or consultant to maintain the site and keep the information up to date, and carefully monitor and publicly respond to any online reviews, whether positive or negative.
The same goes for Social Media. If you think social media is only for teenagers to use to post selfies, think again! Search engines scan for social media sites for your business and place them very high in search results, so it is crucial that your business gets on this bandwagon if it hasn’t already. Similar to personal profiles on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram, there is the ability to create company profiles on social media as well. Depending on your business sector, other social media channels such as YouTube (which is a Google product, so very much favored by Google), SoundCloud and Pinterest would be very important sites to have to promote your business as well.
It’s also important that your company has a website, since a website always appears first in search results, with links to all of your social media channels on the homepage.
Some companies buy software products that are known as “listening tools” which continually scan the internet and alert the company about any mentions about their company online. This can be very helpful for a company with a very high online profile. But this can also be done without the use of software, by conducting daily searches yourself, and noting any new content and mentions.
How to Manage Negative Content
Customers will often take the initiative to contact a company if their experience has not met their level of expectation. Failing to take action or escalate the concern to the right person will make customers feel that they are not valued.
If not taken care of, customers will resort to sharing their negative feedback online, rather than letting their complaint be ignored or unresolved.
How do we deal with negative, potentially harmful content? Negative reviews give a very bad impression. However, it does not mean the end for your business. Failing to react properly will. The first step would be to identify the person who wrote the content, and verify, if possible, that they are an actual client or consumer. Next step is to respond, and respond quickly! It is crucial they we respond to any complaints in a very prompt, courteous and professional manner. Don’t let anger and or a defensive tone take over. Thank the reviewer for their honest feedback and apologize, if needed. Let them know how important customer satisfaction is to your business and offer to resolve the issue, both publicly and in a private message.
Responding to negative content will not only work to appease an unhappy customer, it may actually help to strengthen your online presence and present it in the best possible light. Become a pro at quickly addressing inquiries and grievances online. Going beyond just answering questions or responding to complaints, use this as an opportunity to promote your company image and your unique brand voice. People like to see that businesses are proactive online and care about their opinions.
The Customer Experience and Reputation
There is a direct correlation between the customer experience and a company’s reputation. This is why it is very important to know every step of your customer’s journey. In a previous article we discussed Customer Journey Mapping. Once we have an overview of each touchpoint, experience and interaction in the customer journey, your company can set up multiple channels to receive customer feedback.
“Every contact we have with a customer influences whether or not they’ll come back. We have to be great every time or we’ll lose them.” – Kevin Stirtz
Customer Satisfaction Surveys
To get an even more in-depth insight into a customer’s experience, a company should conduct phone and online surveys to closely gauge and receive feedback on all aspects of their customers experience. This can be done in-house or outsourced to a 3rd party customer survey service. It is important that everyone in a customer-facing role is aware of the survey results. If there is a pattern or trend in the feedback that indicates an experience that is less than positive, management should follow up and take immediate and effective steps to usher in positive change. Everyone in the company is trained to see any feedback or complaint as an opportunity to listen, learn and change.
Positive Reviews and Testimonials
If a customer shares during a survey or conversation that they had an exceptional experience, don’t hesitate to ask for a testimonial. Delighted customers are happy to become brand ambassadors. If you have a website for your company, create a testimonial page where you can share customer testimonials. Make sure customers are aware of your online review sites. This will do a lot to not only strengthen your company’s online reputation, it’s good for search engine optimization (SEO) as well.
Tend Your Reputation Like a Garden
The most successful businesses manage their reputation like a great gardener tends their garden. The healthy soil is a great work environment. Make sure to weed out any dissatisfaction, internal or external, the moment it crops up. You will attract and delight your customers by providing a great product or exceptional service. Gaining the confidence of your customers is the best form of advertising and the only way to build a solid, long-term reputation.