This is a guest post, brought to you by Christine Arthur, Managing Director of McCann Public Relations.
As Oscar Wilde eloquently stated: “There is only one thing in life worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about.” While there is truth in this for a business, in a world of constant chatter, how does a company make sure it is talked about for all the right reasons?
A starting point is to understand just how important reputation is. Businesses can spend years building up their reputations, whether it’s ensuring they always supply the highest quality products or deliver excellent customer service. For this reason, the same amount of care and attention needs to be given to protecting that reputation.
We’ve all seen the catastrophic impact things such as mishandling a product recall or poor customer service can have on household names. However, just one disgruntled customer complaining publicly on social media can be incredibly stressful and can potentially snowball if not handled appropriately. So, it’s crucial to have a plan in place to address any complaint or issue, however big or small it may be.
It’s not a one-size fits all approach…
To begin with it’s important to understand the nature of the complaint or issue and how you – as a business – know about it. For example, if a customer is unhappy with their stay at a hotel or meal at a restaurant and complains directly, then the correspondence can be handled on a one-to-one basis and suitable compensation or resolution offered. But, what about social media? To spot any complaints quickly, effective monitoring needs to be in place. Using free tools such as Tweetdeck and ensuring notifications are set up for the Facebook page can really help keep track. Similarly, setting up free Google alerts for your company’s name can give you an idea of where your business is being talked about.
If a customer complains on a social media channel, do not delete the comment or ignore it – unless it contains profanities or breaks the house rules – as this could cause further unnecessary issues. Instead, try to take the conversation offline as quickly as possible as engaging online with an unhappy customer will draw more attention to the complaint and therefore the potential audience could grow.
Depending on the situation, replying to the comment with an apology and a solution may be appropriate. Keep it to the point and factual. This could be to ask the customer to send a direct message with their details so it’s possible to discuss the issue further. This will enable a resolution on a one-to-one basis – making it much more personal with the ultimate aim of turning an unhappy customer into a happier customer, and potentially even an advocate – sharing their positive experience. We’ve all seen examples of great advocacy for a brand when someone has complained and then had that complaint resolved efficiently.
Replying to reviews…
What about bad reviews? Whatever the review may say if it is online, there is usually an opportunity to publicly address the review directly on the site where it has appeared. Try not to take it personally and, if nothing more, a response shows your business listens to its customers and takes on board their feedback. Importantly, a well measured reply could also encourage the customer to give the company the benefit of the doubt and try it again.
Managing the media…
If a customer or disgruntled employee has gone to the media, it’s likely a journalist will call to get your side of the story. The first rule is not to panic and give a response on the spot. Take the details of the journalist, the deadline they’re looking for a response by and whether they would be happy with a written statement. It’s then important to respond by the deadline either with a short statement clarifying the business’ position, keeping it factual. In some cases of legal or HR matters a response is not appropriate and the statement should reflect this e.g.: the company is not in the position to comment due to the legal nature of the issue.
Proactively building a positive reputation…
The best reputations are sustained by positive recognition among customers – word-of-mouth is a powerful marketing tool. For this reason, a focus on always delivering the best customer service, promoting positive stories in the relevant media and ensuring social media channels are kept updated and any comments or messages on them are responded to quickly is vital.
Positive press coverage is a simple and cost-effective way to maintain your business’ reputation. Think about the sort of news that could make a suitable story for your business’ local paper. For instance, the opening of new premises, taking on new people or a charity donation may be just the sort of story to give your company some positive press coverage locally.
When it comes to reputation management, word-of-mouth is king, while no business is perfect, as long as complaints are handled well and issues are resolved quickly, you will build a solid foundation to proactively create a positive image for your company.
About McCann Public Relations
This guest post comes courtesy of Christine Arthur, Managing Director of PR at McCann Birmingham. McCann is the world’s largest advertising and communications network, with offices on over 130 countries worldwide, and the PR team at Birmingham McCann works as a leading UK PR agency in its own right. To find out more about the innovative and award-winning work of McCann Birmingham, visit www.McCannBirmingham.co.uk.