When conducting an on-line business or even if your business is a “store front” operation, eg. Restaurant, Retail Store, etc. you need to keep informed of what customers are saying about you… There is one way to find out and that is revisiting customers and asking for feedback. However, there is another important element that you need to know. What are they saying about you on-line? If you have an on-line business it is important but there is lots of communication over the internet about other business as well. Whether the feedback is good or not, it spreads quickly by word of mouth but on-line it can spread at the speed of light!
Example of Bad Reputation Management
There was a Company (the name is unimportant at the moment) producing bicycle locks that was growing at an incredible rate because their product was new, innovative and very efficient. They were leading in the industry. However, one customer had an issue with the product and decided to speak their mind on the internet. The Company was not monitoring feedback on the internet at that time. They did notice that their sales were suddenly dropping significantly. When they discovered that their unsatisfied customer had posted enough on the Internet that many people took notice and word of mouth spread at an incredible rate, it was almost too late to repair the damage to their reputation.
How to Deal with Issues
I had an issue with Skype which I use for a lot of my client communication. I had prepaid for a 1 year unlimited long distance plan to the US and Canada. Three months into the plan, they wouldn’t put through my calls, saying that I had to pay for them. I went to the Skype website but nowhere could I find any way to communicate with them except by posting a customer service trouble ticket. Two days passed and I heard no reply, not even a notification that they had received the trouble ticket. I went on Twitter and searched Skype and I “followed” them. Then I posted a few comments about their terrible customer service. I received many “Direct Messages” back from other upset customers. And then I heard from Skype directly on Twitter asking me to clarify my issue. Within less than 24 hours my account was corrected to reflect my prepaid plan. Who knows how much longer it would have taken for them to contact me to deal with my issue?
The Company that sold bicycle locks were not monitoring their reputation but Skype obviously was.
How do I monitor my Companys’ reputation on-line?
There are several ways. You can set up a Google Alert on your Company name as well as your personal name (if you are a small business with sole ownership). Set up a Google Alert. Google will send you emails every day of the “search terms” or “keywords” that you have provided. As well, there is Google Reader. And there is Google Blog Search. What if your customer regularly blogs and has mentioned their issue in their blog? You can also do a search in Twitter to see if anyone is talking about you or your business. There are also sites where unhappy customers can post complaints whether they are valid or not. Sometimes they are false but the word gets out all the same.
Some of these sites include Epinions, ConsumerSearch, Ripoff Report, Consumer Review, Planet Feedback, Complaints Board and Start With Trust. All these companies have websites and can be posted on.
Whether your business is large or small, Reputation Management can make or break your company’s success. It is imperative that you have a strategy in place:
TRACK > REPORT > ENGAGE > EVALUATE
And don’t forget…while you are checking out the feedback on your Company, you can use the same methods to keep abreast of what is happening with your competitors and your industry!
Do you have a Reputation Management Plan of Action set up?
Diane L. Coville