May 6th, 2008 | 4 MIN READ

Negative Word Of Mouth: Crisis or Opportunity?

Written by author_profile_images Linda Bustos

Linda is an ecommerce industry analyst and consultant specializing in conversion optimization and digital transformation.

Reputation ManagementAccording to a recent study by the Society for New Communications Research, 59% of consumers use social media to vent their frustrations about customer service experience, and research other companies' customer service before dealing with them.

  • 74% choose companies/brands based on others’ customer-care experiences shared online
  • 72% research companies’ customer care online prior to purchasing products and services at least sometimes
  • 84% consider the quality of customer care at least sometimes in their decision to do business with a company
  • 81% say blogs, online rating systems and discussion forums can give consumers a greater voice regarding customer care, but less than 33% say they believe that businesses take customers’ opinions seriously
  • Search engines are the most valuable online tools for this research. Those rated of no value include micro-blogging sites like Twitter or Pownce (39%), YouTube (27%) and social-networking sites like Facebook and MySpace (22%)

Via: Consumers Using Social Media to ‘Vent’ about, Research Customer Service

Do you know what consumers are saying about you?

More than ever I strongly believe each online retailer needs a dedicated social media representative who can perform reputation management by monitoring the conversation on the Web and responding to each concern as effectively as possible. This could be handled internally or by a consultant.

ReadWriteWeb has a great roundup of (free and paid) tools you can use to monitor your online reputation, including Google Alerts, Trackur, Naymz and Monitor This.

Can You Clear Search Results from Negative Word of Mouth?

Because negative comments on popular social networks, review sites, blogs and forums can rank top 10 in search engines for your company name, it can be very easy for customers to find this information on you. Although you cannot demand, beg or bribe search engines from removing these pages from their indexes for you - you can often join the conversation yourself and speak to customer concerns directly.

You can also contact the owners of the websites and negotiate removal or modification of the content. Some will co-operate, others won't. Some will ask for money. You may think wiping out the content is the preferred approach, but remember that the community is watching you. It's possible that the thread starters will be notified of their threads' removal and warned about mentioning your company negatively in the future. These posters can just as easily move their rant to another website, recruiting other members to repeat your company's keywords and link to each others' threads and posts to take you down. I've seen this happen.

Turn It Into a Crisitunity

I learned from the Simpsons that the Chinese use the same word for crisis as they do for opportunity. Homer coined the term "crisitunity." I would say the same thing for online reputation management - the seeming crisis is actually an opportunity to show that you listen to your customers and are willing to make good on bad experiences.

You can boast about your commitment to customer service in your marketing all you want, but until you have a chance to demonstrate your service, it's all hype. So I wouldn't get too hung up that some people had a bad experience with you, but I would certainly do everything possible to make it right with the customer. When consumers click to read the dirt on your company and read how you handle problems, it gives them more confidence that should something go wrong, they can expect you to fix it.

Glen Allsopp has good advice on how to respond to negative blog posts and how to deal with a RipOff Report listing. Glen also does reputation management consulting for a living.

Bury the Hatchets

Another opportunity is to push negative results lower in search engines by creating content that will outrank it. From my experience helping a national retailer clear the top 3 pages of Google, Yahoo and MSN I have shared a few suggestions on how to create pages on other sites about your company that are likely to rank well. Online retailers can also take advantage of shopping comparison engines, affiliate programs, coupons and deals sites. You want to choose websites that will allow your company name to appear in the title tag of the page, and you'll also want to link to these pages from other pages to build up their Page Ranks. You have to get creative with this.

You can research which sites to go for by Googling other retailers and see what ranks highly for their names.

Further reading

38 Must-Reads on Online Reputation Management

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