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Reputation.

Posted on: January 5, 2009

My very Southern Grandma Norton once wisely told me that “the only thing a girl can own is her reputation.” True, but hardly applicable to just women these days. Brands need to step up and listen own their online reputation becuase there will always be someone out there calling you a douchebag or a slut.   

81% of consumers read online reviews before purhcasing duringtheir holiday shopping according to MarketingCharts.com and Neilsen Online. While only a fraction of consumers will post reviews or submit complaints a whole lot more will read what those people are saying. If there are consistenly bad posts and no response from you, consumers will seriosuly consider buying from you.  

Do you know what your consumers are saying about you? Are you checking review sites such as Yelp.com as well as the niche review sites (like DealerRater.com for local dealerships)? Do you have a Google alert set to your brand or industry? Do you regularly check to see if Facebook/MySpace groups have formed for or against your brand? Do you monitor Twitter, Brightkite, Friendfeed and Blogs to listen to what your consumers are saying about you, your competitors and your industry?

While social media is fun, display ads easy and search is cheap, online reputation management is a bit more time consuming and harder to grasp. Unfortunately, that leaves a lot of brands unwilling to take the lead and spend their time seeking out reviews and taking control.  

So if you’re not doing at least everything mentioned above then start today, right now. Take 30 minutes and do all of the above and put it in your schedule to checkat least twice a week. It feels a bit like trying to read whats been scratched onto the bathroom stall about you. But once you know what people are saying (good or bad) then you can actually do something about it. And bitch-slapping the person who called you cheap is not an option.  

Start by listening to what your consumers are saying. Nice or not, reviews can help you improve your own businessand let you see where your competitors are lacking. If there are multiple reviews regarding your competitors poor service, integrate that into your marketing. Create a campaign or add message to your current campaign regarding your exceptional customer service, no need to call out your competitor the reviewers have done it for you (don’t forget to actually provide that exceptional service). Also listen for your faults, if customers complain that you’re not meeting their needs, then make changes. 

After you’ve spent some time listening, interact with the reviewers. Maybe your customers are lashing out at your online because they feel that they were not heard inperson/over the phone. Respond to their review with a comment expressing your concern over their bad experience/disappointment and provide them with the contact information of a manager or someone with authority. Provide the name and direct way to contact them, not a sales@blahblah email or general voicemail box. Tell them you will make it better. Not only will this soothe the reviewer it will show anyone reading the reviews that you care, you provide high quality service and a bad experience or faulty product are an exception to your brand. 

Do not get mad. The ability to be anonymous can bring out the worst in people. Yes, calling your sales team incompetent assholes is not all that nice. Responding back that they are an idiot will not solve the problem. Take the high road. Don’t seek to take down every negative post (unless it is incredibly wrong/vicious). Most sites do not remove reviews unless you can prove that the post was dishonestly or maliciously written (hard to do when most are anonymous). Your company is bound to have some bad customer experiences, no one is perfect. But if you deal with them quickly, honestly and nicely you’ll stand out amongst your competitors.

If you need more help getting started check out Mashable’s Top 10 Reputation Monitoring Tools and the Online Marketing Blog’s 6 Social Search Engines to Start 2009.

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