« Back

Articles and reference materials from our business to yours.

Don't Leave Your Online Reputation to Chance

Here’s how.

Social media is a two-edged sword. While it’s a powerful way to connect with customers, an unhappy customer can use Facebook, Twitter or YouTube to broadcast a complaint about your company -- or a video of a botched job -- to an audience of thousands.

Fortunately, tools exist to help you monitor online comments. But the secret to thriving in this environment is knowing ahead of time how you will respond.

Keep track of conversations

“There are 150 million tweets a day and 30 billion pieces of content each month on Facebook,” says R. Efrain Ayala, a Chicago-based social media strategist. “It takes just one negative comment to spur a revolt.”

Ayala recommends using tracking tools like Google Alerts, TweetBeep and Social Mention to monitor these comments. Social Mention scans Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and some blogs for mentions of your company, and tells you who’s talking, how often, and whether the comments are positive, negative or neutral. TweetBeep provides a similar service for Twitter. Remodeling and repair contractors should also keep an eye on Angie’s List. You can create a profile for free and reports will be emailed to you when someone comments on your company.

Understand the customer

Monitoring is half the battle; the other half is responding effectively. To succeed, try to see things from the customer’s point of view.

Mike Simonsen, co-founder and CEO of real estate data firm Altos Research, considers negative comments “a customer service conversation.” He points out that people often turn to Facebook or Twitter only after trying unsuccessfully to resolve a problem through more traditional channels. The online post offers you a second chance to solve their problem and to identify and correct a shortcoming in your organization.

“If people are complaining about your billing process, tell them you hear what they’re saying,” says Ayala. Tell them how you intend to fix it, and make it clear you value their feedback.

To expedite responses, Ayala recommends creating templates for different types of comments, such as:

  • Compliments
  • Product complaints
  • Customer service complaints
  • Suggestions
  • Requests for additional information
  • Requests for donations or sponsorships

For each category, create a response template that genuinely addresses the customer’s concern. But don’t use these templates as boilerplate replies; instead, think of them as talking points for crafting individual responses.

Move fast

“Whatever your response, make it quick,” says Ayala. Ignoring online comments won’t make them go away. If you can’t reply immediately, at least tell the complaining customer that you have heard them. “There are bandwagon complainers,” says Ayala, referring to people who troll for negative reviews so they can add their own. “You need to react fast and appropriately to squash them.”

Admit mistakes

The biggest mistakes are doing nothing and stonewalling. If someone posts misinformation about your company, you need to correct it -- fast. But fess up to legitimate complaints. Even the best contractors make mistakes; admitting and correcting them shows your commitment to improving customer service.

“Say you’re sorry,” says Carol Flammer, author of Social Media for Home Builders 2.0. “It’s almost always the wrong answer to say nothing or to say ‘No comment.’ That comes across as uncaring. In today’s transparent society, that can blow up all over the place.”