Proactive Online Reputation Management is a Must

May 04, 2009 5:34 PM  By

Retailers may not have the time or resources to search for and respond to every comment about their business online. But with an openness to accept customer feedback, they can transform critics into champions for the company.

Retailers usually become aware of online critics when something negative is posted on the Internet about their business. Recently, a chiropractor sued a patient over a review on Yelp, and the case was just settled out of court.

Reactive businesses try to eliminate the negative response while panicking about who is reading what about their business. Now that everyone with a keyboard is a potential online critic, businesses realize that monitoring and managing their reputation is critical.

Savvy retailers are taking this a step further to engage with reviewers, gather customer testimonials and create consumer evangelists. With a cache of favorable product or service reviews on their Web site, customer testimonials become a powerful way to build customer trust and increased loyalty.

What’s more, retailers that communicate regularly with customers via e-mail campaigns and surveys are strengthening customer connections with reviews and feedback to boost awareness and drive repeat sales.

According to the Gartner Hype Cycle for Social Software report, Internet reputation management is an emerging market that will continue to gain momentum. Companies need to embrace reputation management and could lose sales if they do not become more adept.

Connecting with consumers proactively—instead of reactively—creates an opportunity for retailers to mediate and resolve any potential disputes before consumers take their complaints to the Web. For example, if a business requests feedback after a purchase and the customer reports a shipping issue, the business can take steps to resolve the problem.

This creates a satisfied customer and dispels the need for negative feedback elsewhere. Posting a statement on your Website or sales receipts about your commitment to resolve any issues with customers directly will help provide the customer a direct feedback channel.

Businesses that realize the need to connect with customers across multiple channels can develop strong customer relationships and a healthy online reputation. When businesses seek feedback from customers, they have the opportunity to resolve issues and turn a positive into a negative—before a dispute escalates into a court battle.

Neal Creighton is the founder of RatePoint (www.ratepoint.com), a provider of customer feedback and online reputation management services.