Welcome to Part 2 of our 3-part series on Online Reputation Management. Yesterday, I wrote about how to monitor your company’s online reputation. Today, we’ll cover the critical skills you’ll need to effectively respond to the feedback you encounter. Tomorrow, I will discuss various ways to proactively contribute to online communities to improve your reputation instead of just reacting when things flare up.
First off, it’s important to know when a response is appropriate and when it might be better to just let it go. There are a lot of variables that you should factor into this decision. Among the most important are:
- What is the nature of the feedback? If a customer is looking for information about your company, products or services, try to lend a helping hand by providing useful information without resorting to a sales pitch. If a customer is writing extremely negative things in a complaint site, read the tips below on how to respond. If the feedback is positive, either leave a quick thank you or just sit back and feel the love.
- Does the customer want to be contacted directly? If so, don’t respond on the website where you found the post. Do some research (either on the site itself or in your customer records) and figure out how to contact them via email, phone, or letter.
- Can you do anything to resolve or explain the issue? Again, look at this as an opportunity to improve your relationship with this customer rather than a pest that must be dealt with.
Depending on the type of site where you find the feedback, you will have different ways to respond if you choose to do so:
- Blog – Leave a comment for the author and/or post your response on your blog with a trackback to the original post
- Forum – If appropriate, register as a member and post your response. Don’t be “salesy” or try to hide your identity. Be sure to contribute useful, relevant info rather than marketing messages.
- Complaint Site or Review Site– Look for a business owner feedback mechanism. Many of these sites allow business owners to respond to reviews. Caution: Beware of scams, extortion attempts, and sites that try to bait you into a fight that you are never going to win! Do some research about the site and figure out if your response will be given fair consideration and equal shelf space. If you don’t feel comfortable posting on the site itself, find another site or use your blog to post your response.
- Social Media or Networking Site – Join the site and look for ways to contact the individual in other channels. Be respectful of his or her privacy as many of these sites are used for personal as well as business relationships.
- News Site – Contact the editor or journalist and ask for room to clarify your position or a follow-up article. Consider writing an op/ed piece as well.
Finally, some ground rules for your response:
- Always post as yourself, not as an anonymous or fake person.
- Provide actual contact information.
- Don’t ask others to post positive things about you and try to pass it off as unsolicited.
- Research the incident that resulted in the feedback before responding. Get details from your customer service team or any other employees that dealt with the customer.
- Create accurate, complete profiles on any sites that you register for.
- Provide links, phone or email addresses for your customer service team, or the appropriate executive that can handle the situation. You don’t necessarily have to post these publicly if you contact the person outside of the original site.
- Take conversations offline if possible to facilitate communication and maintain the integrity of the ongoing conversations.
- Explain how you plan to correct the situation and take care of the customer.
- Explain how you and your company are working to make sure that this problem does not affect anybody else.
- If a peaceful resolution is achieved, politely ask them to update their story or complaint with the outcome.
These tips should help you resolve and defuse many of the potential online reputation nightmares. Take care of your customers and they will take care of you.
[UPDATE] Added link to Online Reputation Management Part 3: Contribute [/UPDATE]