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January 21, 2008

You Too Can Prevent Reputation Management Nightmares

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With all that money you’re investing in your Web site’s search engine optimization strategy, you don’t want to botch it all up with poor customer service that crushes your branding efforts and disintegrates consumer trust, do you? Of course you don’t.

Reputation management is a lot like dating when you think about it. Your customers don’t want you to buy them an expensive gift or take them on exotic vacations; they just want your attention. All it takes to look like a hero in their eyes is to spend a little time being mindful and addressing their needs for once. You may be all into the conversion and closing the deal, but your customers and significant other are looking for some nurturing and understanding.

Good customer service establishes you as a thoughtful authority, as someone who will still be there in the morning to help solve problems and put out fires. It’s the fastest way to make friends and one of the most effective in establishing trust, loyalty and the total warm and fuzzies. I’ll give you some examples.

Good Customer Service

Despite all my initial knocking, I’ve recently picked up Twitter. But thanks to Marketing Pilgrim list of search engine optimization folks using it, most of you already know this. I say that because I currently have 101 Follower Requests on my account waiting for approval. Look:

The problem is I can’t approve them because there seems to be a bug in Twitter’s system preventing me from getting to the Accept/Reject page. It’s somewhat problematic because I’m likely coming off as entirely antisocial to the swarms of people who attempted to follow me once Marketing Pilgrim let the cat out of the bag.

I’ve contacted Twitter about the bug many times and each time I do, I get a personal email from support explaining the issue and assuring me that they’re working on it and offering workarounds. Now, it’s been two weeks since I’ve been able to accept a Follower Request. Am I getting a little restless? Of course. But I’m also content with the communication that has gone on between Twitter’s support staff and myself. I haven’t been blown off. They’re listening. And they’re very understanding of all my rage. As a result, I’ve stuck around and I haven’t blogged death threats.

While Twitter hasn’t been able to solve my problem (yet), they are forming trust. When I receive non-templated emails, I know that they are working on my issue and are genuinely trying to help me. And really, that’s all I’m looking for when I voice a complaint. A signal that you heard me and you’ll do your best to help.

It’s when you ignore your customers’ concerns that you get into problems and undermine your entire search engine optimization investment with a reputation management nightmare.

Very Bad Customer Service

I signed a new lease on my apartment recently which will keep me there until July. However, I still continue to pretend-apartment hunt on Craigslist. It’s like a tic with me. I can’t go a week without checking the apartment rentals to see what’s available. I know I’m not in the market for a new pad, but I want to see what everyone else has waiting and whether or not I’m missing out on some amazingly underpriced condo. While I was perusing this weekend, I came across this listing:


Wow. A 2 bedroom for $1,000 in Ventura? That’s $400 less than the one bedroom I’m currently living in and it’s located in the town that I lived in and loved for 3 years. I demanded more information:


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Ah. See, there is no 2 bedroom at that amazing price. Instead, it’s an enraged warning from a disgruntled renter who feels like management has not done enough to improve the safety conditions in the complex. Coincidently, I lived in that complex for a year and a half and also had my car broken into as well. It seems they haven’t solved the security issue. I searched for that complex on a few other apartment listing sites and found similar complaints from different users. That’s inexcusable.

What’s the point of promoting your company and paying all that money to optimize your Web site if you’re going to let it go to waste because listings like these are warning potential renters to stay far, far away from your overpriced apartment complex? There’s none. There’s no reason for it and it means all those search engine optimization dollars you’re spending have just been thrown away.

Think of the goodwill and positive branding the apartment managers could have created by taking steps to fix the problem. How difficult is to get local security agencies to drive around? To install security cameras? To enact some type of neighborhood watch program? The complex is literally a block away from the police department; you’d think they’d be able to work out something. Perhaps take one black and white and have it drive by the apartments on its way to sitting outside the bar all night. I’m not trying to be flip but there are plenty of ways this situation could been handled in a way that wouldn’t have sent residents to air their dirty laundry on Craigslist. But when you ignore your customers and their needs, this is exactly the kind of situations you become vulnerable to.

Don’t risk your brand and devalue your search engine optimization efforts by letting fires spread out all over the Internet. The best way to manage your online reputation is to not develop a reputation management problem in the first place. And the best way to do that is through superior customer service.

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One response to “You Too Can Prevent Reputation Management Nightmares”

  1. Eric Lander writes:

    Lisa, this is a prime example of how being oblivious to social media has a monumental impact on branding. I’m effectively 3,000 miles away from these folks, but these apartments will have an indelible mark in my mind. Considering that we’ve discussed moving to California for so long, that’s saying a lot.



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