Online Reputation Management: Challenges and Options

Online review sites like Yelp, in addition to community forums, consumer watchdog sites and social media have come to play an increasingly large role in brand reputation. Online complaints present 3 serious challenges to a brand’s reputation.

The first is that there is no paper trail to prove that the company resolved the issue. Marketing studies find the first place consumers go to complain about a company is online, but when it comes to actually resolving the complaint most prefer traditional channels – speaking with someone in customer service on the phone, or using a company’s web support request form. So even though the complaint is closed, there is no paper trail to prove it, as Customer Service rarely engages directly on online/social platforms.

The second problem is visibility. Negative online comments are amplified, reaching many, many more people. One tendency of online behavior is that people who did not originally have a problem with a company are suddenly given a forum to vent, so a single complaint turns into a string.

The third is that negative online comments are a nightmare for SEO. Negative brand mentions start ranking as keywords, domains are created with the brand name and “complaint” or “scam” in the same title, and before your know it – the company has a huge online reputation problem at hand.

It’s important to remember that online comments do not have a shelf life. Liqui-Site has worked with companies who have online reputation problems that date back ten years! If you have an online reputation situation, here are some options:

Paid Sites
– One of the ironic things about some consumer sites is that they are actually managed by Online Reputation Management Services – so to address the complaints a company must sign up for their services. This is very much a pay-to-play model that is difficult to get a handle on (and the cost only inflates over time).

Hire an Agency – Some agencies (like ours) offer comprehensive online management services. We typically work very closely with a client organization to really understand their brand guidelines, voice, challenges and policies. The advantage of using a professional agency is twofold: the technical expertise to effect SEO by creating new content and pushing damaging or irrelevant content down in search engines; and a better understanding of how consumers talk and engage online. Instead of ‘autobot’ responses, we implement carefully crafted responses to each and every consumer, and if applicable, promote a company’s most trusted product or service. We rely on powerful ‘listening’ tools to identify even the most dated online comment. The long term benefit of working with an agency is that a business is able to show that they truly listen to and value their customers, that they are savvy enough to monitor online conversations about their brand, and that they are proactive about customer service. Learn more about our Online Reputation Management for B2B and B2C.

Customer Service – Companies with large Contact Centers might consider integrating customer service into daily online marketing, and allowing customer service to respond on online channels. This scenario is advantageous for avoiding potential online reputation issues because it sets up a workflow between Marketing and Customer service, and usually integrates automated technology. This is a strong idea for a large, forward-thinking company with the long term advantage of gaining a positive reputation for real-time customer service. Learn more about this option in ‘Should Customer Service Respond on Social Media?’

Take Legal Action – Last but not least, a business can always sue over damaging comments on the web – but they might not get very far! The Virginia Supreme Court sided in favor of a woman who left negative comments on Yelp and Angie’s List about her contractor. Attorneys say legal actions over online reviews are on the rise nationwide. Such cases pit free speech rights against the increasing importance of online reviews to the success of a range of businesses and professionals.

Of course, a company can always “go-it-alone”, but there is a good chance that without robust reputation monitoring software and some objectivity about your business practices that the problem could get worse.