Those of us who have been extending our business presence into the online world know that the face of online business is rapidly changing. Managing your online reputation has become more important than ever as consumers are starting to expect businesses to interact with them online.
So what do we do when it all goes wrong? How do we maintain our online reputations without causing unnatural customer interactions or making the business look out of touch? This is where the concept of online reputation management comes in.
Interestingly enough, maintaining a powerful online reputation has become a big topic in the online business world. Larger companies even hire specialized firms specifically to handle the way they interact with their customers online. There are a lot of different ways to go about managing your online reputation, but before we go into detail, let’s look a little bit at some of the things that a properly managed online reputation can do for you:
Establishes a good line of communication with your customer base
Allows employees and customers to discuss products and services in a public format
Gives an effective avenue for customer feedback
Puts your finger on the pulse of your customer base
Of course, there are plenty of ways in which managing your online reputation can go south. As a result, it’s always important to make sure you’re being careful about how you go about interacting with your customer base. There are a few ways in which your online reputation management can go wrong:
Could attract negative attention
Could exacerbate bad press
Requires savvy employees
Competitors can take advantage
Since this is an issue of transparency and responsibility, it can easily act as a two way street. Poorly responding to customer criticisms, or lashing out at your customer base can easily garner nationwide bad-press. This is why it’s important that you try to fully understand how to manage your online reputation, and make sure that you’re taking the right steps to not alienate your customers.
So now that we have some idea how managing our online reputation can go wrong or right for us, let’s take a look at some of the details, and how we can get started managing our online reputation effectively. This is a fairly well established concept, and there is a lot of information online about it. To get you started, let’s go over some of the basics.
Online Reputation Management
The fact of the matter is that your customer base consists of people, and people tend to talk. Your customers will have opinions about the things you do, the way you conduct your business, and if/how you respond to the things they say.
The most important thing here is to try and make your customers feel like they have a legitimate way of making their voices heard. When your customers feel like they can actually talk to you and have their opinions be listened to, it gives you a huge advantage over their wants and needs as consumers.
The key is maintaining this sense of open dialogue. As soon as you begin to become less transparent, your customers will notice, they will ask questions, and they will expect you to answer. Being responsive is one of the easiest ways to keep your online reputation managed properly.
One of the worst things you can do is to argue with your customers online. Refusing to acknowledge something that your customers see as a flaw will eventually signal to them that you don’t care what they think, and you do care about what they think, trust me!
So, what are some good rules of thumb we can use to make sure that we’re keeping our online presence friendly and transparent?
Rules of Thumb
Be transparent. This is rule #1. Your customers need to feel like they understand your business, and can feel good about being a patron. Keeping your online presence transparent is fairly easy to accomplish, unless your business is reliant on things like privacy (such as with a VPN service). Even if you don’t have the leeway to be entirely up front about your business practices, making sure your customers feel like you do, is important.
Be responsive. There’s no point to being transparent if you don’t respond when your customers come around asking questions, or levying criticisms against you.