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The Design Train blogs are a series of articles researched and written by Andrew Knapp for submission to various publications and sites. The articles cover a wide range of topics and can be adapted and edited for use in various styles of media application.

  • Writer's pictureAndrew Knapp

Online Reputation Management and why it's best practice to keep your personal views to yourself!

Why you need to put your ego away when dealing with the public

Most of us who have worked within the customer service industry have had to deal with a bad review every now and again. In those old pre-digital days this normally involved receiving a phone call or letter of complaint which was easy to keep contained, and quite simple to resolve, and often just ignored.

In these days of social media and the popularity of social advocacy sites, dealing with an unhappy client is not so simple. Disgruntled clients can now make their feelings known to a much wider audience through a wide number of outlets and platforms in a very short space of time, and unless handled correctly, will seriously affect your business.

The knee-jerk reaction to online complaints and bad reviews is to give the complainant a piece of your mind, tell them why they are wrong and, with ego appeased, feel that you have vindicated yourself. Your friends and colleagues may pat you on the back and congratulate you on ‘telling it like it is’, but please remember that your friends and colleagues are not your client base. In the real world this is tantamount to business suicide.

Don’t think that how you deal with complaints has no impact on your business. Whether you sell cake online, own a restaurant or guest house or head up a multi-million rand industry, the detrimental effects are the same.

Consider these few statistics:

  • On average it takes 13 positive reviews to counteract a negative review.

  • 78% of consumers trust peer reviews, where only 13% trust advertising.

  • 74% of consumers use social media to guide their purchase decisions

  • 41% of companies that experienced negative reviews reported a loss of brand value and revenue

  • 45% admit that they found something online that influenced the decision not to do business with a company.


70% of customers who complained will do business with your brand again after resolving an initial complaint.

Keeping this in mind, here are a few tips to developing an ORM strategy that will help turn the situation in your favour, or at least negate the impact.

1 Always put yourself in the customer’s position. Although you may not agree with them, they have had a negative experience with your brand / company. Have the decency to acknowledge the fact. How would you feel if you took the time to voice a complaint and nobody replied to you? Personally I would follow up with a second complaint, or re-post my complaint to a public advocacy site, so exacerbating the problem.

2. Never delete a negative comment. So you’ve taken the time to review to a company or send a complaint. How would you feel if your complaint just disappeared? It would destroy any remaining credibility your company may still have had within your customer’s mind.

3. Reply to complaints quickly. The sooner you respond, the easier it is to control the reach (spread) of the complaint and swing public sentiment in your favour. Social media responses are seen immediately, so this is your chance of getting on top of the situation as soon as possible.

4. Remember that your response is normally transparent, so you are not only replying to your complainant, you are showing others how willing and capable you are to resolve an issue successfully.

5. Never send a generic ‘thank you for bringing this to our attention. The situation has been passed to the relevant parties’ type of response. This is your opportunity of engaging in a

personalised response, addressing the subject of the complaint in a responsible, concerned manner. Remember that the customer is the biggest stakeholder in this interaction. Handle them incorrectly and the chances are that the complaint will be bought to the attention their followers and friends, so increasing your brand / company damage.

6. By correctly handling the complaint you encourage more mentions of your brand /company across the various social media platforms. Therefore a negative situation can be swung to help promote the positive aspects of your business. This supports the old adage of no advertising is bad advertising.

7. Avoid fake reviews. It is tempting to get friends to post positive reviews in response to a negative post, however, it can backfire. If you normally receive 5 reviews within a month, a sudden surge in positive reviews after a negative one always looks suspicious. This is even more risky when the reviews can be verified by a third party.

8. Time your response to have the widest readership. By checking your social analytics you can see what time of day you have the most activity on your site. Don’t post at 3am in the morning when the majority of traffic on your site happens between 10am and 2pm. You want your response to have the widest readership possible.

9. Take responsibility. You are the person designated to handle complaints, not the waitress who maybe gave bad or indifferent service, or the housekeeper who may not have done her job properly. Don’t appropriate blame to a third party, even if that was the actual cause of the problem. You, and only you, are under the spotlight. How you handle the complaint within your company is your prerogative, but don’t involve the complainant in the process.

10. There is no room for being self-obsessed, egocentric or big headed when dealing with customer complaints. Put your personal views and feelings away and do what is best for your business, not what makes you feel justified.

If you are still unconvinced I have a few more stats to leave you with:

  • On average a dissatisfied customer will tell between 9-15 people about their experience as a matter of course.

  • 87% of company executives rate managing reputation risk as more important than any other strategic risk.

I hope that this brief outline of ORM gives the new and experienced marketer an insight into this often overlooked subject.

Happy marketing – The Train Driver

Stats are sourced from: Life experience solutions, Deloitte, Expertise, crocodiledigital, Job Hunt org, pewinternet, webbiquity, Online Marketing Institute, yokellocal, Receiptful, digital-and-online-reputation-management, pcmag, BrandYourself, YahooMarketingDashboard

A note from The Train Driver (aka Andrew Knapp – The Design Train):

In the course of my normal working day I read numerous industry reports, article, posts and blogs on various aspects of digital marketing. Although fascinating, it is a time consuming process, and I often wondered how the average business owner ever finds time to keep abreast of this constantly changing industry. With this in mind I decided to publish this series a blogs, compiling the most pertinent and easy to understand information that I come across, in a nutshell. So jump aboard and let The Train Driver guide you down the track to managing your business on digital media. If you have any questions, queries or requests please use our Contact page to let us know how we can help you.

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