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 A Smarter Way to Protect Your Company’s Reputation

Thursday, April 14th, 2011

By Christopher Elliott

You probably already know the value of managing your company’s reputation.

But just in case you don’t, here are a few points to ponder:

* BP’s handling of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill is a classic case of a company in dire need of a managed reputation. Yeah, it tried buying adwords on Google after the incident, but it was too little, too late. By then, BP’s name had already become a punchline, and it will probably always be synonymous with a disastrous gusher, linked forever like Exxon and Valdez.
* Remember United Breaks Guitars, the video I showed you last week? That rep management slip-up reportedly cost it $185 million. Had it managed the crisis better, it might have lost far less.
* Last month, a video of GoDaddy CEO Bob Parsons shooting an elephant in Zimbabwe made the rounds online. You’d think someone as Internet-savvy as Parsons would try to avert the damage with a sophisticated rep management campaign. Instead, he suggested his critics were clueless, even after calls for a boycott against the domain name registration company. “GoDaddy lost customers after that,” says Kent Lewis, president of Anvil Media. “I was on an email list of Internet pundits, where the major discussion was who offered the best alternative to GoDaddy for hosting. They all left.”

Saving money and face are great reasons to manage your reputation, of course. But experts say that’s not good enough.

Customers Demand It

Do it for your customers.

“Reputation management, and reputation management firms, are largely tasked with disaster cleanup,” says Scott McAndrew of the digital marketing firm Terralever. “They come in when things are bad, and, in many cases, use tactics that hide what’s bad, and try to court what’s good.”

But rep management like that is the rough equivalent of treating the symptom without looking for a cure. It’s crisis PR plus.

How Protecting Your Reputation Improves Customer Service, and Vice Versa

“Even the best reputation management can’t hide a business that is truly lousy in customer service and their are simply too many other choices out there then to buy from a business that does not value you,” says Marc Karasu, founder of the customer-service site MeasuredUp.

Reputation management can drive better customer service, though.

Instead of rebranding themselves whenever there’s a reputation problem, companies should try to use the tools of rep management to determine where customer service problems are — and fix them.

Yesterday, I covered one company’s bold plan to embrace the bad reviews it gets. What if negative reviews could be incorporated into a more comprehensive reputation management program?

Read the rest of the article here

 Covering Your Bases with an Integrated Approach to Social Media Marketing and Customer Service

Tuesday, April 12th, 2011


Whether your business is prepared to handle customer service questions via your social networking sites or not, the day will come probably sooner than later—when people will start reaching out to you there—expecting timely responses. If you haven’t started to integrate social media and customer service you might be surprised to learn that for the most part you already have the tools you need right at your disposal. You may just need to be thinking about using them a little differently.

Heidi Cohen writes in the post, How to Integrate Customer Service into Social Media Marketing, “Social media has changed customer service from being a support function to being an extension of marketing. In the social media ecosystem, customers want to know that you’re listening and responding.”

Heidi identifies 12 Ways that Social Media Enhances Customer Service and extends your marketing efforts:

1. Gives business a human face
2. Listens to what customers are saying
3. Proactively engages with prospects and customers
4. Provides additional product-related content
5. Answers product-related questions
6. Supplies alternative contact channel
7. Gives customers a channel to talk to each other
8. Shares customer feedback
9. Celebrates your customers
10. Shows customers behind the scenes
11. Makes special offers
12. Create new purchase options

Tools for Listening and Responding
How are businesses going about listening and responding? Through recent conversations with representatives from over twenty businesses, Twitter and Facebook were mentioned repeatedly as reliable tools for both listening and responding. Other tools referred to included LinkedIn groups, blog comments, community forums, Google alerts, Social Mention, BackType and Disqus. Several businesses were using dedicated social CRM products–Nimble, Get Satisfaction and MeasuredUp.

Types of Problems and Queries
Businesses are also finding that the types of problems and queries being made through social media runs a wide spectrum from broken web links, service requests, pricing and location questions, customer feedback, general FAQ about services to dissatisfied customers who don’t know where else to turn to communicate with the company and are looking for an immediate response.

Importance of Responses
Listening and responding is one part of the equation but certainly not the whole picture. Businesses need to have processes in place for everyone who speaks on behalf of the brand–even the CEO! Take for example the recent fiasco with Kenneth Cole on Twitter where he used the #Cairo hashtag that had been employed by Twitter users to denote discussion of current events in Egypt to advertise Cole’s spring collection. Not only was the tweet considered insensitive and in extremely poor taste, “it also went against an unofficial but generally observed policy for the use of hashtags on Twitter. The site’s help center page about hashtags notes that they should be used only on Tweets relevant to the topic.” Business leaders and their company representatives should make sure they know the difference between acceptable and unacceptable communications because everything today is not only public but also permanent. What happens on Twitter stays on Twitter.

Human Resources
Businesses are finding too that they need to have dedicated resources to staff their social media presences to field questions and comments. Here’s how businesses are approaching staffing solutions:

Jon Stein, CEO of, says “Everyone in our office, all the way up to the CEO, is monitoring our social media channels. Its that important because if someone posts a message on our Facebook wall and we don’t respond–we not only miss an opportunity with that customer, but we also send an implicit message to all of our customers that we are not responsive to their needs.”

Michelle Judd at Ergotron says, “Right now we have two people from our Technical services team monitoring the forum and three people monitoring Twitter. One person monitors Facebook, although we have seen very few customer questions through Facebook. Our CSRs manage email, chat and phone calls.”

Lindsey Olsen at Evil Controllers says, “We have one person logged on Facebook at all times during the day ready to respond, as well as another person monitoring Twitter at all times as well. Both specialists spend the entirety of their day focusing on response, and reaching out via social media.”

Stephanie Bullis at says, “We have a social media coordinator that monitors all our social platforms and alerts the appropriate people within the company when action needs to be taken in reaching out to specific customers.”

Community Managers

An important new job function at businesses too is the role of the Community Manager. According to GetSatisfaction the Community Manager is a “jack of all trades and master of many…the only way to accurately reflect their contribution would be to understand that they work at the very edge of your organization, the place where the line between company and customer is blurriest and their job is to understand, manage and stimulate the collective passions of your customers in a way that creates value for both company and customer.” Marc Karasu, CEO at MeasuredUp says “Businesses should consider a blended approach to digital customer service and online reputation management.” Jon Ferrara, CEO at Nimble says, “With the advent of social media, the way we communicate with each other has changed, yet business needs stay the same. Now more than ever before, community managers are driving business success—traditional relationship building models need to expand to include social channels.”

Jeremiah Owyang of the Altimeter Group describes the Community Manager as the backbone of customer service in today’s modern online marketplace. He says, “As the Community Manager role continues to grow into a key piece of the customer experience lifecycle, remember to approach this space with humility and patience to teach internal stakeholders the value of the role.”

Read the rest of the article here

 Twitter Does Not Work For Businesses

Tuesday, October 19th, 2010

By Marc Karasu

The only thing worse then bad customer service is no customer service.

Twitter seems to exacerbate this problem or at least companies are not really using Twitter correctly.

In recent months we are starting to see those ubiquitous little twitter icons on tv commercials and print ads the same way every ad in 2000 had the novelty of a “.com” url to go along with the company logo.

The difference is that a customer that actually does go to Twitter to find a company is more often then not going to be let down by the poor to nonexistent customer service they get from the company on twitter.

Of course there are exceptions to the rule like Zappos and a few others who have great traditional customer service. But the majority of companies with a Twitter account burp out a lame tweet or two every few hours and in many cases only once or twice a day. And the tweets themselves are skimpy. Usually a promotion or some pathetic twaste like “Thanks for the props. We love your comments”. Often these companies don’t even answer the customer tweets. This is the dirty secret.

They are trying to position themselves as consumer centric and while in reality they have just built a new room where the lights are on but no one is in the office.

Thanks for nothing, is what they are saying and what the customer is left thinking.

Is this what “Digital customer service” is in the twitter age?

Happily some more useful business applications like, and Angies list exist that actually provide value to both the consumer and the company.

This is not to say Twitter is a bad service because it is not. And in full disclosure I manage

Its just that the companies that use Twitter appear lazy and often seem to be relegating their twitter accounts to the intern or junior marketer which means huge lapses in coverage when invariably the people managing the account leave for other jobs. Twitter is in fact littered with empty company accounts with old stale comments. In many cases there are several company accounts with similar twitter account names which is surely a sign that the company could not figure out the login info and had to open another new account.

Worse are the twitter accounts that seem to be run by either a third party or hack in the marketing department that simply churn out promotional white noise. This is not a help. It is in fact part of the twitter problem which is that seemingly half of all tweets are some schmo trying to sell you a get rich quick twitter scheme or a company heaving some crappy offer at you.

The bottom line is that companies today are not using many of the real online business tools that exist and are twasting everyones time with rinky dink attempts on Twitter that are so annoying it would be better if they had no account.

Clearly Twitter is trying to push itself as a business tool but if companies keep taking the low road they will over time ruin twitter and completely turn it into a noise machine.

If consumers care enough to hit the internet to find your company, then you should be smart enough to engage them meaningfully and convert them into sales. If you do not then expect your competitors that do figure it out to take you behind the wood shed.

 Small-Business Marketing Strategies

Tuesday, October 19th, 2010

New small businesses pop up every day trying to get footholds in larger markets. In order to attract desired patrons, they must market themselves in unique, fun and interesting ways to a wide variety of consumers. In today’s world, effective consumer marketing strategies always include using the Internet, with online surveys or reviews playing a large part.

If you are a small business, it is important that you leverage the Internet to better market your company, said Marc Karasu, founder of, in an e-mail interview.

Karasu shared his thoughts on how small businesses can use Internet marketing to broaden their customer horizons.

1. Take charge of what is said about your business online. Unbenownst to you, there may be many unflattering things being said about your business that you need to refute or correct, Karasu warned.

2. Consumers use the Internet for shopping research. If your company does not come up near the top of searches on sites like Google or, worse, has bad reviews associated with it, then you could be losing out on new sales.

3. Build a great customer service brand to increase sales and engender customer loyalty. It’s more important than ever for small-business owners to join the conversation online and help to manage their companies’ reputations.

Establishing a good rapport with consumers is probably one of the biggest challenges that faces small-business owners as they try to break into larger markets. Providing quality products and services are only half the battle. The other half, as Karasu pointed out, is creating effective marketing campaigns, which include taking the time to create comprehensive consumer surveys that will allow small-business owners to know going in just what consumers require.

Read article here:

 How Small Businesses can build their Online Reputation

Thursday, September 16th, 2010

Times are tough and the economy is not helping small businesses.  Yes their are spending bills and loan programs etc but the real backbone of any small business is or at least should be great customer service.

After all, it’s the one thing you can do better then the big guys and it costs you nothing right?  So why don’t more small businesses do more to build up their customer service reputation?  That is, beyond the obligatory thanks and “Nice to see you, come back again soon, hear”

What I am getting at is why don’t more small business owners better harness and utilize the internet and search to help drive business, take business away from bigger competitors and build consumer loyalty.  Well, that’s easy,  many small business owners  just really don’t understand the internet and search and are scared to learn.  But really, is that a good excuse?

If their is one thing you do for your small business advertising and brand it is that you should learn how to leverage the internet and search to build and promote your customer service, manage your online reputation and drive leads and sales.  It’s just too easy and effective to ignore.  Sites like and Yelp and Angies list and many others allow you for the first time to actually compete on an even footing with the big box stores.  Yes, you heard me right.

Think about it.

Most consumers today start a purchase with research on the internet.  Even if they are just looking for the address of that big box store or a coupon for they are “Searching”  on Google or another search engine and this is your opportunity to intercept them with your business and products.  Entice them to deviate and come on by.   Motivate them to try you instead of them.

You could not compete with the advertising budgets of the big stores.  The newspaper ads, the tv commercials, the billboards.  But now you have a means to interact with potential customers at the exactly the moment that they are researching a purchase.  And you can do it for Free or almost free as effectively as the big guys.  Really, what more could you ask for.  The internet has truly leveled the playing field when it comes to small business marketing and local advertising.  For a few dollars a day and maybe an hour a week you can mount an online offensive that will keep your business front and center for online shoppers, researchers and browsers who are looking for your core products and services.

You can start to really develop a customer loyalty, following and customer service brand.  This is called your online reputation.

To start building your online reputation go to and do a search for your business name, the core products you sell and the general category you are in.  Look at the Organic search (free) results.  Look at the paid ads on the top and the right of the search results page.  See what your competition is marketing, the prices and what they are saying.

Now think about your business.  The products that you feature, the prices, and the customers.  Find where your competitors are weak.  Is it the hours? The location? The prices?  The selection? Or the simple fact they are big and impersonal and you are small and local.

Spend the time to figure out your brands real positioning and value proposition.  All this means is “what is it that you do better then anyone else”.

Now, go to, Yelp and Angies list and write a review about your business.  Be honest that you are the proprieter.  Readers dont like to be misled and can spot a phony review.  Be clear about your business and your value proposition.  Share a promotion or sale.  Talk up your free parking, selection and most important, your hometown and great customer service.  If you do not have good customer service then this is your time to get focused on it and make it a business priority and investment.  If you already have a good customer service reputation and online reviews then great.  Your job is never done.  Write more.  Have your customers write more.

The point is that the more sites you write a free review about your business on the more good reviews their are about your business online and the more likely that a potential customer comes upon your review in their search and comes on by to give you a try.

It’s free advertising.  It’s targeted.  It works.

If you really want to go the extra bit then tell your best customers to go on to write a review about your business.  Again, the idea is that the more good, honest reviews about your business online the better.

Their are many other ways to market your business online from Google adwords to banners to PR and social media but until you take advantage of the Free online reputation management tools you should not bother with the others.  Your Customer Service reputation is your Online Reputation and the good reviews shoppers read about your customer service and business when they search online will build your brand, drive leads and increase sales.

 Best Consumer Complaint Sites

Thursday, July 22nd, 2010

By Seth Fiegerman

Are you not on speaking terms with a particular business? Well, essentially acts as an intermediary between you and the companies you hate. Big name business like Home Depot, Wal-Mart, Orbitz and Best Buy have signed up with MeasuredUp to respond to consumer complaints on the site. Consider it a way to get around talking to representatives on the phone. (It’s also worth noting that there are thousands of posts on this site that are actually positive, which doesn’t seem to be the case on the other sites we mentioned.)

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