Poor Online Reputations Kill Businesses, Don't Let It Defeat Yours

Don’t lose your customers at the first hurdle: the search engines (Google).
The web is most likely the first stop for consumers wanting to find information about your brand, company or product. It doesn’t matter whether you have one bad review or ten, your customers can be quickly and easily influenced by what they read – and it doesn’t matter whether it’s true or not. More than 90 per cent of Google searchers don’t look beyond the first page of search results, so if negative reviews and posts are the first thing they see, you face the very real risk of losing potential customers at the first hurdle. Professional online reputation managers can utilize Search Engine Optimization techniques to ‘remove’ that negativity from the first page of Google.

Consumer reviews matter…
A negative reputation can be caused by a myriad of factors; one of the most powerful being online reviews. An April 2012 study by Nielsen found that online reviews are the second most trusted form of advertising among consumers, trailing only word-of-mouth recommendations. Nearly 80% of customers changed their minds about a product or service based on a poor online review (Newswire.net March 19, 2013). Compounding this is the fact that an online review is over five times more likely to be negative than positive.

The challenges businesses face is that they are being burnt by just a couple of negative reviews, even if this is not typical of their customers’ experiences. This can quickly affect their bottom line and have a lasting impact on their brand’s reputation, offline and on.

‘Dell Hell’.
In 2005, Dell became the poster child for poor reputation management when a blogger posted a single negative comment about its customer service, calling it “Dell Hell”. The lengthy post attracted computer buyers globally and produced a domino effect that caused a drastic decline in Dell’s business. The company learned the hard way that bloggers can make a difference; one single negative comment can have an actual impact on your brand’s reputation and profits.

The dangers of Social Media.
Sometimes it’s the seemingly ‘unimportant’ comments that can quickly snowball. Take Facebook and Twitter. Given the time and hassle associated with calling customer service centres, consumers are venting their frustrations on Facebook or in a tweet. An eMarketer survey (June 2012) found that nearly half of consumers expect a brand to resolve customer service complaints on social media. So when companies do not monitor their social media accounts and respond to comments, an issue can quickly escalate, with more people adding their comments and experiences. Worse still is when a company tries to fight the comments or deletes them. Big mistake.

Case study: Hyundai.
In April, a customer posted a photograph of a quote from a Melbourne Hyundai dealer on the company’s national Facebook page, complaining about the inflated prices. While nobody from the company responded to the post, the rest of Australia did. The post went viral, racking up almost 18,000 shares, 10,000 comments and more than 38,000 likes in just one week. It was only when it hit the national news that Hyundai Australia responded.

Beware of the hoaxers.
No business is perfect, so most companies will experience a bad customer review from time to time. It is how you deal with these user comments that matters.
However for some companies it goes further and they can be victims of online brand abusers who spread unsubstantiated rumours, fake reviews and smear campaigns across the web.

You only need to look at the recent social media hoax that hit ‘Just Jeans’ to see the impact brand abusers can have on customers. A fake social media profile was registered as “Just Jeans”, using the brand’s logo as its profile image. Over a period of 12 hours, visitors who posted comments to the page received abusive responses from the hoaxer. As a result, Just Jeans needed to apologize for a swathe of offensive, unauthorized posts by someone who wasn’t even associated with their business.Poor online reputation

Your online reputation; monitor it, control it and have it fixed up if it’s broken.
These examples show that a bad online reputation is not always the fault of the business owner; however, it’s down to the business owner or manager to ensure negative comments or reviews do not spiral out of control by implementing effective online reputation management.

More than ever, you need to rise to the challenge to ensure that negative online content does not unfairly detract from the brand reputation you have worked so hard to build. After all, the costs associated with online reputation management are nothing compared to the price you pay when your company gets a negative online reputation.