Even in today’s world dominated by social media, it is surprising that most small and large businesses still do not understand the importance of brand reputation management. For most people online reputation management is merely responding to negative reviews online and pushing negative search results out of top few pages of Google.
This couldn’t be further from the truth and it is important to understand what does online reputation management stands for and how businesses can benefit by effectively managing their reputation online.
What is Online Reputation Management (ORM)?
Online Reputation Management (ORM) is the process of improving or restoring your name and your brand’s good standing on the Internet.
It is interesting to see that even Wikepedia has focused on search results as an integral part of reputation management.
However, reputation management is incorrectly perceived as only defying, weakening and removing any negative material or information found on the internet. Businesses try to combat bad or damaged reputation by creating positive content owned and managed by them while trying to improve their credibility and customer’s trust in their brand.
This is only a very small aspect of online reputation building and a reactive approach towards managing your brand image and identity. In addition, The major part of building a positive online reputation involves taking a more active approach towards building your internet reputation. This is achieved by creating a highly detailed ongoing digital strategy with focus on how your business will conduct itself in the digital world.
The Perils of Only Investing in Reactive Online Reputation Management
Most businesses tend to hit the panic button when they see a negative review online or find a negative press article coming up on Google on searching for their brand name.
When faced with a negative review or bad press, the first step most businesses follow is to contact an online reputation management professional and focus on moving those negative press down or responding to bad reviews.
However, by the time a business responds to a negative review, it could be too late and much damage could be done to their reputation. This can cause immediate distress to the business and have long term effects in terms of loss of revenue and profitability.
Moving a bad article down could be even more expensive (in terms of direct and opportunity costs) for a business. Not only is it expensive to undertake negative SEO (process of moving the bad press down and bringing positive results up), it is also time consuming. It could be months before negative results can be pushed down on search engines like Google.
In most cases by the time a business finishes with responding to the bad reviews or pushing a negative article down on Google, the damage is already done to their reputation and possibly adversely affect the business’ profit and revenue.
Pro-Active Online Reputation Management – Building & Protecting Your Brand
Pro-Active reputation management is about managing your online reputation as an inevitable part of your digital marketing strategy. Organisations must invest towards setting up a detailed strategy for building a positive image and managing how they are perceived online.
Most organisations shy away from investing in proactive reputation building because they cannot see an immediate return or find it impossible to measure the ROI from this activity.
As an organisation, if you proactively engage your audience online, you will constantly be aware of what customers are saying about your products and services.
Listening to your customers will help you understand the gap between your perception about your own products/services and how your customers perceive your offerings. This will allow you to bridge the gap between customer’s perception and your brand message and help improve your offerings.
When you regularly listen to your customers and monitor the social media and the Internet, you will also be better prepared for tackling any reputation emergency that you could be faced with.
Creating a Pro-Active Reputation Management Culture
Like any organisational behavioural change, building a pro-active online reputation management culture requires a top down approach. Senior Managers need to understand the importance of customer service team as the first port of call for better online reputation. They should focus on developing a digital strategy that focusses on pro-actively engaging the target audience.
Customer Service team at the forefront of Online Reputation building. Are you kidding?
Yes, you read it right. Your customer service team is at the fore-front of building a positive online reputation.
Think about most of the complaints/reviews online. You will find that most reviewers if unhappy with a product or service, first contacted the organisation to resolve the issue. However, when they didn’t receive a response from the organisation, they went online and complained about it.
We looked at some of the reviews a local online furniture retailer in Australia received. Most of the bad reviews were about bad customer service (or in some cases no service). Most customers only published the bad review when they couldn’t get an answer from the retailer after many attempts.
The above example shows the failure of customer service team at three fronts:
- Inability to provide an accurate date to deliver the goods
- Inability of the customer service team to empathise with the customer
- Lack of knowledge about the current discounts being offered
Although it can be argued that the second point could be more related to the particular staff that the customer was dealing with. It still is management’s responsibility to ensure that the right people are at the coalface of the organisation and are professionally trained to deal with difficult situations.
It is management’s responsibility that they make sure that all staff members are properly training in customer service procedures and are educated enough to solve product and pricing related queries.
The above review clearly highlights that the reviewer’s frustration lies in the fact they couldn’t receive a proper response from the business and struggled to find a way to communicate with the business.
The above two reviews have been taken from www.productreview.com.au. In each case, the customer contacted the business and tried to get an appropriate resolution for their problem. However, none of them got a satisfactory response from the organisation.
There are only two reasons why the customer service team failed to response:
– Lack of resources and the customer service team being overstretched or
– Lack of willingness at the management level to resolve customer complains
In either case, the management has to take sincere steps towards farming a customer focus culture within the organisation.
If the customer service team is over-stretched, they need to make sure that better processes are in place and new resources are engaged.
The customer service team doesn’t have to respond straight-away, however, systems should be in place so that as soon as a complaint is received, customer is informed of the timeframe within which the organisation will respond.
The management has to understand that even though they are an online business, the experience that the customer has with their customer service team will affect their business online and the long term profitability of the business.
To improve their online brand reputation, management has to make sure that the customer service team is trained in organisational processes and are up-to-date with pricing and discounts on offer.
Invest in Content Marketing
Marketing departments should integrate content marketing as an integral part of their online marketing.
Content marketing is a strategic marketing approach that involves generating and distributing valuable and relevant consistently to attract and communicate with your target audience and in turn retaining them to generate revenue.
For any organisation that is focussed on building their brand, they must connect with their audience and communicate their message in a controlled manner.
Content marketing does require management to be patient as the short term gains are trivial. Conversely, the long term gains from content marketing done right are massive. When you constantly engage your audience, you can build up a bond with them and gradually increase their trust in your brand and your business.
Also, when you continuously communicate with your audience, you open a communication channel that can provide you with constant feedback that you can use to learn more about your audience and their perception of your business.
We have seen what makes pro-active reputation management an important cog in building your online reputation.
Organisations need to understand that the online reputation management is not limited to just social media and burying down bad press and reviews. It is a lot more than that and your journey towards building a better online reputation starts with your customer service team.
Ensure that content marketing is an essential part of your digital marketing strategy. This will make sure that you are better prepared to deal with potential negative press. You already have content on the web that can be pushed up and used to push down any negative press.