Studies show that over 78 per cent of internet users research a product or service online before making a purchase decision. The growing penetration of the internet has led to a vast number of consumers being able to share their views and opinions freely – be it through social platforms such as Facebook, Twitter or various niche websites. All this eWOM (electronic Word-of-Mouth) generated needs to be channelised to communicate the brand’s message effectively; else this could have disastrous consequences.
The American Management Association in one of its earlier studies found that a satisfied customer tells three people about a good experience while a dissatisfied one complains to eleven.
Whether a brand manager likes it or not, it has become imperative for every brand to monitor what is happening online and address user grievances as soon as possible.
So what is online reputation management?
Online Reputation Management (ORM) allows brands to showcase their entire archive of positive, informative and useful content in the online space. Company blogs and social profiles become huge information repositories for users to refer when they search for a brand online. Thus, ORM forms part of the overall promotional mix to help consumers take informed decisions related to their potential purchases. ORM stresses on tracking and controlling the perception of the brand on various social platforms and address concerns and complaints of dissatisfied consumers. This is decisive for a brand’s reputation online. The better a brand handles dissatisfied consumers, the better is its image online.
Offline marketing channels that positioned the brand earlier were instrumental in creating consumer perception which would lead to a saleable action. However, on the web, consumers play a key role in influencing brand perception. Brands have little or no control of what people say about them through their Twitter handles, on their Facebook pages or on consumer forums. ORM, thus, becomes a strong tool for managers who want to keep track of how their brand is perceived online. Maintaining an overall positivity over the internet becomes one of the primary objectives of ORM.
Beyond deleting negative comments and posts
Many companies jumped on the social media bandwagon not realising that a Facebook page or a Twitter handle is not just another marketing channel but potentially opens them up to negative criticism. Their first reaction was to hide/delete the negative comments. One cannot go more wrong. Remember, it is NOT possible to hide everything that goes online. By deleting the comment you are frustrating an already unhappy customer even more, often resulting in him posting the complaint on a forum that you have no control over.
ORM for effective brand management
A well run ORM campaign involves actively monitoring all relevant platforms using a good online brand monitoring platform.
Once a negative post/tweet/comment has been identified, the brand must try and engage the disgruntled consumer and resolve their issue proactively. As a last step, a request can be made to the customer to acknowledge, online, that his issue has been resolved satisfactorily. This will ensure that the next time someone searches for the product and sees this page, he or she at least know that the company cares for its customers.
Many companies that are ahead of the curve with regards to using the digital medium to their advantage track several metrics from their ORM campaigns to identify gaps in their service and determine the overall perceptions of their brands. For example, a big retail chain buckets the negative comments into various dimensions such as in-store experience, after sales service, product related complaints, etc. and over time identifies common trends and tried to resolve them by improving the on-ground situation. Similarly, a bank would want to track if most complaints are related to their account opening process, their call centre or to any particular branch and then liaison with appropriate teams internally to rework processes.
Brands need to give special attention to analysing data received through ORM as it is a great form of true and honest consumer feedback. Analysing feedback gives valuable insights to consumer issues which you would have assumed to be non-existent till then. The more you listen to your consumer, the better you would be able to understand the flaws in your processes and take corrective measures, ensuring a better overall experience for your future consumers.
Vishal Sampat is Founder and CEO, Convonix