By John Reid, CEO of Repknight
People are more connected than ever before. Smartphone penetration and the ability to publish anything anywhere thanks to the likes of Twitter, Tumblr and Facebook means we can stay constantly connected to our network of friends and family.
Everything rises to the surface: what we're doing now, what we did last week and, most importantly, our likes and dislikes.
It used to be that reputation management was something only high-profile companies like BP worried about. The social web has changed this. Twitter, Facebook, blogs, forums and websites have all enabled a new generation of consumers to publicly broadcast their thoughts, feelings and experiences.
Using tools such as Twitter, people are tapping into the "wisdom of the crowd" via social networks to make informed choices about purchasing products and services. This means that bad experiences become recycled and have much longer staying power than they did ten years ago. Big ad promotions no longer influence us as much or more than the influence of our peers and trusted sources.
While SMEs and larger organisations are aware conversations between consumers are taking place online, they lack the time and resource to identify and deal with them.
Coordinating an organised team effort towards doing so can be difficult.
Although there are no quick fixes, improving your reputation online is fairly simple. It means doing the same three things over and over and over again: Listen, Engage and Resolve.
Listen: If the customer feels the need to vent about your company, it's because they want someone to listen. They're looking for a reaction; if they can't have a resolution, they'll settle for scaring a few customers away from your business because revenge feels good. If you can give them a resolution, they won't need to do that. This starts with knowing what the problem is.
Engage: If you think you provide good customer service, then be prepared for a two-way street when it comes to communicating with customers. Some companies have been known to set their lawyers on to customers who have complained about them online, threatening them with legal action. This is absolutely not a strategy you want to be known for using. Instead, engage with them. If they're Facebooking about how poor your product is, politely ask how can you help them. Most people vent on social media out of pure frustration so when you reach out to help, most react with pleasant surprise.
Resolve: If practicable, and within your power, do your best to resolve the customer's issue. You may not always be able to but often you'll find the effort is appreciated-even if you do decide to part ways. Most bad reputations begin with an outsourced call centre not fixing a customer's problem, so the higher your support resolution rate, the healthier your online reputation will be.
Implementing a sound reputation management strategy begins with finding efficient tools that reduce the amount of resource and time needed to address conversations online. Doing this will enable you to engage with customers and improve your reputation and bottom line.
John Reid is the CEO of RepKnight, a reputation management solution that enables companies to track conversations and trends in realtime, 24/7, and coordinate their teams to respond.