21 Sep 2016 20:03 IST

Why brands can’t ignore online reputation management

This is crucial to digital strategy, especially for a company looking to delight customers

Online reputation management (ORM) has become an integral part of any brand’s digital strategy, as the online consumer base is constantly growing. According to a recent survey, 70 per cent of Indians online prefer or have used social media for customer service or purchase recommendations at least once. With more and more consumers actively sharing and looking out for information online, it becomes crucial for brands to have a successful ORM strategy in place.

What is ORM?

It is the process of managing and improving your brand’s reputation through positive content promotion and prompt redressal of consumer complaints and grievances online. This customer-centric approach ensures credibility and helps monitor the brand sentiment online.

To maintain a positive brand image, businesses need to constantly monitor conversations around their brand and the industry across social media, community forums, review sites, blogs and all over the internet. There are ORM tools available to track, analyse and manage online content, making it easy for brands to streamline the process and carry out quality checks regularly.

How to implement ORM

Understanding how online reputation management can impact your brand identity and business objectives is important, no matter how big or small the enterprise is. Here are some pointers on key aspects of ORM that can make or break your brand:

Listen or lose: Knowing what your customers are talking about your business online is crucial for customer retention and acquiring new prospects. The majority of consumers today refer to reviews and recommendations on various sites and social media platforms before making a purchase decision.

Negative feedback about your service or product online can lead to distrust and drop in sales. Hence, a timely response system needs to be in place to address customer grievances, not just on social media , but also on review portals and forums that can show up on the Google Search results. Think of your telecom providers, your neighbourhood restaurant or even your salon — they all need to do this. You can see Airtel, Vodafone and Idea leading the pack in terms of listening to complaints.

Respond to regain trust: One of the most common mistakes brands make when it comes to online reputation management is deleting or avoiding a customer complaint. Covering up an issue is never a solution, as customer stories tend to have greater reach and impact.

Consumers appreciate public signs of transparency and honesty; hence, always respond to negative comments and take the issue offline if needed. When the issue is resolved promptly, there are higher chances that this troubled customer will turn a brand evangelist and post positive feedback about the brand’s approach and customer service. Think about how Maggi achieved this or how Emirates managed this when they almost had a crash.

Be quick to acknowledge feedback: According to an average Internet user, a brand needs to respond to a consumer’s query or feedback online within 30 minutes or an hour. Prompt response with a relevant solution goes a long way in showing consumers that you are listening to them. It’s also one of the easiest ways to win back your customer’s trust and let them know you value them.

If you are unsure about something, it is always better to inform your customers that you are looking into the issue and will get in touch shortly regarding the corrective action. The longer the time taken to respond, the more severe the damage. If you are a B2C brand where the consumer engagement rate is high, opt for ORM tools that can help you streamline this process.

Climb the search engine ladder: Close to 91 million searches are performed on Google each day. How many of those do you think could be about your brand? Big or small, leverage SEO to make positive content dominate the Google Search results and push down the negative references about your brand.

Promoting fresh, useful and positive content on various web pages about your brand can help in outranking negative comments over a period of time. Most brands also take an integrated approach to effectively use influencer marketing to create a positive word-of-mouth reputation. This includes creation of blogs or reviews across community platforms, online review portals and social media.

Customer delight, made easy: Being available online and making customer interactions meaningful result in a company exceeding expectations. A happy customer likes to share positive experiences and eventually becomes a brand loyalist.

Businesses in the servicing industry can take the ORM route to dominating the competitive marketplace and demonstrate their trustworthiness and commitment to customers. To achieve this, brands need to actively track brand mentions and follow conversations online to respond and initiate conversations. Being proactive not only helps keep negative sentiments at bay, but also builds a positive brand perception.

Online reputation management is often the missing piece in a digital strategy, especially if the brand is looking to create a difference and delight customers. That being said, bad products and bad service cannot be reclaimed with ORM; it can only camouflage it for a short time. So focussing on creating an amazing experience or product is still the key.