As a marketer specializing in search engine marketing, I’ve often been asked how a small business can most effectively manage its reputation online. My initial response is always, “Simple, just create the best product or service and back it up with exceptional customer service and the rest will fall into place.” Unfortunately, most companies do not have the ability or interest in consistently creating world-class experiences, so they have to resort to a defensive online reputation management (ORM) strategy. That doesn’t mean companies large and small shouldn’t do their best to create positive experiences at every touchpoint.
You can’t over-train employees, especially customer service representatives (CSRs), to provide a compelling experience which increases the likelihood customers will write positive reviews. Take a lesson from Zappos and empower CSRs & other employees with autonomy and budget to delight customers with gifts and make-goods. Train staff specifically to identify happy customers and encourage them to write reviews (not using any incentives or providing any specific guidance on what to say of course). Set a goal of 24 hour response time or less. Ideally, a ‘dialed’ CSR team focusing on online opportunities should be responding within the hour, which maximizes impact. Remember that positive reviews are excellent marketing opportunities; ask permission to utilize them as testimonials in your marketing.
Even if you are unable to create a world-class social media customer support team, it is still worthwhile to spend time monitoring social media, review sites and branded search results to identify unhappy customers, employees, partners and peers and responding in a timely manner. Acknowledging complaints is often the most important and effective step in resolving issues and repairing relationships. It all starts with the keywords. The most common keywords relating to ORM include company name + reviews, customer reviews, ratings and feedback. Consider negative modifiers like sucks, poor service, issues. Also evaluate situational modifiers like accident, union, protest, recall, spill, dispute, etc. Search for these terms regularly in search engines and on review sites and manually review results for issues and opportunities.
Here is a link to part 2 of this ORM series. If you’d like to get the full picture of effective online brand management, attend my ORM session at the 2016 IABC Heritage Region Conference in Columbus Ohio October 9-11.
Published on Anvil Media President, Kent Lewis
Purveyor of measurable marketing (analytics, search engine & social media marketing)