Online review sites like Yelp, in addition to community forums, consumer watchdog sites and social media have come to play an increasingly large role in brand reputation.
Online complaints present 3 serious challenges to a brand’s reputation.
The first is that there is no paper trail to prove that the company resolved the issue. Marketing studies find the first place consumers go to complain about a company is online, but when it comes to actually resolving the complaint most prefer traditional channels – speaking with someone in customer service on the phone, or using a company’s web support request form. So even though the complaint is closed, there is no paper trail to prove it, as Customer Service rarely engages directly on online/social platforms.
The second problem is visibility. Negative online comments are amplified, reaching many, many more people. One tendency of online behavior is that people who did not originally have a problem with a company are suddenly given a forum to vent, so a single complaint turns into a string.
The third is that negative online comments are a nightmare for SEO. Negative brand mentions start ranking as keywords, domains are created with the brand name and “complaint” or “scam” in the same title, and before your know it – the company has a huge online reputation problem at hand.
It’s important to remember that online comments do not have a shelf life. Liqui-Site has worked with companies who have online reputation problems that date back ten years! If you have an online reputation situation, here are some options:
Agreement with Consumer Review Site Owner
One of the ironic things about some consumer sites is that they are actually managed by Online Reputation Management Services – so to address the complaints a company must sign up for their services. This is very much a pay-to-play model that is difficult to get a handle on (and the cost only inflates over time).
Some agencies (like ours) offer comprehensive online management services. We typically work very closely with a client organization to really understand their brand guidelines, voice, challenges and policies. The advantage of using a professional agency is twofold: the technical expertise to effect SEO by creating new content and pushing damaging or irrelevant content down in search engines; and a better understanding of how consumers talk and engage online. Instead of ‘autobot’ responses, we implement carefully crafted responses to each and every consumer, and if applicable, promote a company’s most trusted product or service. We rely on powerful ‘listening’ tools to identify even the most dated online comment. The long term benefit of working with an agency is that a business is able to show that they truly listen to and value their customers, that they are savvy enough to monitor online conversations about their brand, and that they are proactive about customer service. Learn more about our Online Reputation Management for B2B and B2C.
Integrate Customer Service into Online Marketing
Companies with large Contact Centers might consider integrating customer service into daily online marketing, and allowing customer service to respond on online channels. This scenario is advantageous for avoiding potential online reputation issues because it sets up a workflow between Marketing and Customer service, and usually integrates automated technology. This is a strong idea for a large, forward-thinking company with the long term advantage of gaining a positive reputation for real-time customer service. Learn more about this option in ‘Should Customer Service Respond on Social Media?’
Last but not least, a business can always sue over damaging comments on the web – but they might not get very far! The Virginia Supreme Court sided in favor of a woman who left negative comments on Yelp and Angie’s List about her contractor. Attorneys say legal actions over online reviews are on the rise nationwide. Such cases pit free speech rights against the increasing importance of online reviews to the success of a range of businesses and professionals.
Of course, a company can always “go-it-alone”. But there is strong chance that without robust reputation monitoring software and some objectivity about your business practices that the problem could get worse.
Due to the popularity of WordPress (it is currently the most popular blogging system in use on the web - powering over 60 million websites worldwide), hackers have found it significant enough to disrupt and cause havoc. Recently, a problem that has come to the attention mostly among web hosting companies and WordPress developers are "brute-force attacks", and illegal "botnets" that infect WordPress websites.
In layman's terms, these illegal botnets are networks of zombie-like computers that have been infected by a program with the sole purpose of passing it on to other WordPress websites. This happens by way of a "brute-force attack" - or the program trying a huge library of passwords in order to break into a WordPress administrative area. If the program gains access to the administrative area, the website becomes open to a whole host of malicious code injections, essentially knocking the website offline. Fortunately, a knowledgeable developer can be proactive about these security threats and take steps to prevent botnets from entering your website or blog:
1. Choose difficult usernames and passwords for all users of your WordPress site. Passwords should contain special characters and alternate case-letters. Additionally, usernames should not be generic like: "Admin" - which is a very popular choice when creating the most privileged user on a WordPress website – the Administrator. For password management, I highly recommend using a tool called 1Password that will create strong, unique passwords for you, remember them, and restore them all directly in your web browser.
2. Keep WordPress plugins up to date. This is essential to maintaining a healthy WordPress site. You may also want to install plugins like Login Lockdown which helps prevent the brute-force attacks by limiting the amount of failed login attempts.
3. Backup your WordPress Website! This is a given and while it will not save you from these attacks, it can be very useful in case anything should happen to your WordPress website. Liqui-Site recommends Backup Buddy to backup, restore, and if needed - migrate a WordPress site to another domain or server.
4. Have a WordPress developer make additional security refinements to the WordPress core files. Additional steps can be taken on the server to protect the administrative areas of a site.
Learn about all of Liqui-Site’s content management system solutions – including WordPress – that are cost-effective, scalable and easy to use to determine which one is right for your business. Contact us to schedule a consultation, or request a proposal to get started.
by Matthew Ell
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Social media is increasingly becoming the first place customers go to complain about poor customer service, but the brand representative who responds is typically in Marketing - not the Contact Center.
Research indicates that customers still prefer traditional channels far more than social media when needing customer service. But that does not stop them from also sharing their experience on a social network or online review site, which is far more public. Would it make sense for the Contact Center to expand its reach and respond on social media?
A minority of companies are testing the idea of integrating their social media monitoring and response policies with their Contact Center. A new whitepaper from Interactive Intelligence Group explores its potential and the major challenges to initiate. It calls the proposal a ‘chicken and egg’ scenario: are customers not turning to social media for their customer support needs because companies are not providing support via social media, or are companies not providing support via social media because customers are not using that channel?
The core challenges of putting in to place a workflow solution between social media and customer service are, firstly, determining the responsibility and capability of each department – Marketing and Customer Service, and secondly, choosing an automated technology that can monitor and splinter information so that it gets into the right hands for response.
Most social media duties fall to Marketing because they are expected to have a solid grasp on the brand image and understand the implications of going off-brand on social media – a platform that amplifies any brand mistake like wildfire. The other issue is control – Marketing and PR professionals tend to be control freaks, and may not be able to immediately see that outsourcing some social media to the Contact Center would be beneficial. As one insurance CEO says in the whitepaper, “We have customer service reps that could handle these types of interactions, but there are concerns that they are not the right people to do this.” That may be just an issue of training, and that’s a relatively small solution that could offer significant long-term advantage.
But of course much depends on the nature of the business. Thinking about brands that are heralded for both quality customer service and engaging social media, Home Depot comes to mind. This brand manages to do both by letting their knowledgeable store employees respond to customer questions and DIY project ideas right on Facebook. They are in essence ambassadors for both Marketing and Customer Service.
As social media management becomes more automated, the Contact Center is getting pulled more and more into the activity. Ad hoc automated tools like TweetDeck or HootSuite assist brands in monitoring brand conversations and identifying the customer service requests that need resolving – but they can only do so much. Typically these tools are paired with a lot of manual searching. A higher performing CRM is needed to monitor and report on all social activity and then take the added step of triaging posts by specific keywords to a corresponding person in the Contact Center. That is a lot of reliance on an automated technology and a lot of testing to make sure it has semantic capabilities.
But if the integration is pulled off smoothly, something interesting happens that could change the fabric of social media – the social media interactions can be treated as another customer service interaction, just like phone calls, email, or web chat interactions.
This idea is not for everyone and should not be rushed into. Many businesses still use manual social media monitoring and don’t have a social media strategy in place. Both of those come first. But for those who think it makes sense in the future, Liqui-Site has some technology and best- practice recommendations. Contact us if this is a conversation you’d like to have.