In a hyper connected world, think 80% smartphone ownership, a business needs to be where their customers are. This sort of reputation management is the new customer service for the age. It is the equivalent of the customer complaint desk or the 1300 number you used to ring.
How does your business handle complaints and negative feedback online? Do you have a policy on how to handle questions and comments to your businesses public Facebook page? How about a question on twitter? A picture on Instagram with a comment on quality or presentation?
If you answer to this is you don’t or even, you don’t have to worry because you don’t have a Facebook, Twitter or Instagram account for business – then you are doing marketing in the age of the internet wrong.
Your customers are online, and they will talk about, share, like and discuss your brand – even if your not in the conversation. Engaging with customers online brings opportunities to your product and services for future sales. The more information, the more answers and the more interaction you have with the public when they are talking about or interacting with your businesses brand online then the more likely you are to be who they think of when they make a purchase. Disruptive advertising (think TV or radio) is a thing of the past. People have always turned to friends and family for information and references to businesses who have been helpful and reliable for them. In the age of Facebook where the average user has around 200 friends how magnified is that social referral system now?
Here is a small example of that social referral system in action. Try to imagine if this was your business being discussed.
I was recently involved in a conversation about the service and product received by a customer of a particular fast food store.
The customer in question was providing photos of the bought meal, the list of what was missing and the rather, in his opinion, small serving provided. He had approached the local store, lodged a complaint via the phone and was simply told by the manager that he doubted there was anything wrong. He then lodged a complaint with the states head office and was told they would look into it. The disappointed and now somewhat frustrated customer moved his grievance online. It wasn’t on the official site for the chain but was in a public Facebook group were posts could be seen by everyone but only able to be written by members. The rather long post went into detail about previous meals and listed dates of the last four meals he had bought there and whether he had made a complaint or not and the outcome of the complaint. Out of the four previous meals three were returned and the store had apologised and fixed the order up.
Nothing unusual there the internet has become the goto place to complain about the shortcomings of business. In fact this wasn’t the first time this particular business had come up for a negative discussion on this site. The conversation though that grew up in the comments was unusual in its depth. Some 220 plus later the talk was divided into three distinct camps.
Camp one was supportive, agreeing that the provided product was not what they should have gotten.
Camp two was on the opposite side of camp one. There was the usual, nothing wrong, stop complaining, its just product basic x, what do you expect its just teenagers working there and my favourite, you shouldn’t complain because starving kids.
Camp three were the usual meme throwing jokesters long for the ride.
Now you maybe reading this and wondering what this has to do with your business, your website and your businesses online profile.
Business branding and online reputation management.
The business, the local store, was well aware that discussions took place involving its service and its product. In fact one of the people who were in camp two strongly suggested they were affiliated with it. Mentioning they knew that most of the staff were young, they were under time pressures to produce the food and knew the stores procedures in a bit of detail.
Being aware of the type of site this was, being aware that their business was often mentioned in a negative way on this site it makes sense for someone to be monitoring the discussions for mention of their business brand. Online reputation management is something a business in 2015 should be participating in.
Online reputation management and business branding go beyond a set of business cards, website and a sign. Your customers, past, present and potential are online in some way or another. They use Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest, to communicate there likes and dislikes, photograph that new pair of shoes, complain about that sandwich they just bought or how a staff member treated them while making a purchase.
In this case a representative should be available to monitor the known chat rooms and be there to help mitigate the negative feedback.
Again I’ll ask how does your business handle online conversations about your products or services ?