Online Reputation Management – Being Your Own PR Firm

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A few days ago I while perusing the local bookstore for some new reading material I stumbled across a release by Pete Blackshaw titled “Satisfied Customers Tell Three Friends, Angry Customers Tell 3,000”.

What struck me as profound about this title was not the terrifying implications this foreshadows for businesses that do not provide adequate customer service, but rather the notion that until fairly recently this quote would have been pure hyperbole.

If you were in business in 1998 and ended up with an unsatisfied customer you could take solace in the fact that their gripes would generally only be confined to their immediate social circle. Sure, you could bank on word-of-mouth spreading customer’s disaffection with your business, but this was the exception rather then the rule.

Fast forward a decade to 2008. If a customer falls out of favor with your business today they have countless venues which they can voice their displeasure – all thanks to the power of the web. From forums to blogs, from Facebook to Twitter – there is no shortage of virtual soapboxes for people to interact, share, and ultimately made their voice heard. This in turn logically corresponds to a proportionally increased number of people that will see these posts and be influenced by them; which can be the difference between a potential customer choosing you or a competitor.

So what can a business do in order to control what is said about them online? An area of business usually referred to as “reputation management”.

While the obvious answer would be to strive to provide a level of customer service that would make all your customers want to scream nothing but praise, this is nothing more than a utopian ideal. The truth of the matter is that there will always be customers that find fault with your business, no matter what you do to make their experience better.

The best advice for any business concerned with reputation management is to simply be proactive. You should be constantly scanning the virtual environment for unsavory press – that way you can quickly respond and right the situation before it is seen by customers, both potential and existing.

One of the best tools to help you accomplish this is Google Alerts, an email update utility which sends you missives based on your chosen topic or query. For example, I have an alert which sends me an update every morning with all the places on the internet Point2 is mentioned.

Another great idea is to head off potential angry customers by buying up domains such as Ihate___.com. This idea has already been embraced by large businesses, seeing as a recent study showed that 35% of fortune 500 companies own the domain ___sucks.com

Which reminds me, I should check if Point2sucks.com has been purchased…yep, looks like we own that one. But then again, we probably don’t need it – as far as I can tell all of our customers love us to pieces! 🙂

4 Comments

  • Lori Bee says:

    I definitely would love to learn more about utlizing the Google Alerts. After my experience with the media, and just knowing how “people talk,” I always want to be proactive to make sure it is GOOD talk! 🙂

    And I am a proud P2 customer who loves all y’all to pieces!

  • Lori Bee says:

    Have actually started to use Google Alerts and find it helpful. Found some syndication of my “MIS” Information… yikes. But at least I know it’s there, and have a chance of addressing it. Thanks for the heads up!

  • Karin Hanna says:

    Hi Chris, I loved your post and i love point 2 as well. The importance of Online reputation management is growing daily and is gathering huge momentum as social networks become increasingly popular. As a real estate professional and coach to the industry i know our listings and incomes are going to be largely determined by how proactively we decide to build our online reputations. It needs to be something we have as a core component of our businesses today so we arent forced into reaction mode later on when damage has already been done. Most of us have happy clients if we have been in business for any length of time people who already know us, like us and trust us. We need to be actively learning how and getting them to actually recommend us online as well as through word of mouth. Those who are proactive now will reap the benefits in the future while those who dont will be forced to play catch up…

  • Chris says:

    Hey Karin,

    Thanks for the comments! I completely agree with you about transitioning customers from happy, passive customers to proactive, word-spreading customers. For example, whenever a customer calls our support line for assistance, the (fantastic) customer service team will try to end the call with the question “Have I done everything I can to earn your referral business?”

    This question – while deceptively simple – prompts the customer on the other end of the line to actively think about the service they have received and the next time someone asks for a referral or recommendation, Point2 might be foremost on their mind.

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