When tech journalist Ryan Block tried to cancel his Comcast service, he was frustrated by an overly pushy customer service representative.
Shortly afterwards, his recording of the call went viral, reaching around 4 million people worldwide – and forcing the company into an embarrassing public apology.
A few years ago, unhappy customers would just sound off to a few friends. But social media and online review sites mean that they can now reach thousands (or even millions) of people.
And many businesses have found out the hard way that a poorly thought out tweet or photo can come back to haunt them.
Here are a few ways companies can make the right impression online:
Monitor mentions of your brand
Tracking every mention of your company across the internet might sounds like a daunting task, but there are a number of tools to help. Google Alerts is one of the simplest, allowing you to set daily alerts for your brand name and main keywords.
SocialMention, Boardreader and MonitorThis are all useful ways to track it across social media, blogs, message boards and multiple search engines.
Be social and responsive
Social media is an increasingly popular way for customers to contact businesses – or complain about poor quality products or service. Surprisingly, many large companies still ignore social posts. Responding promptly can prevent any dents to your online reputation, and show customers you care.
Check review sites
For many hotels and restaurants, reviews on TripAdvisor, Yelp, and similar sites can make or break a business. Find the review sites that are most relevant to your business, and check them carefully, responding to comments and taking feedback on board. And encourage your customers to review your business, perhaps by displaying a logo or website address.
Admit mistakes – and fix them
Hopefully your mistakes won’t lead to negative publicity on the same scale as Comcast’s customer service fail. But businesses are made up of humans, and errors are sure to happen. By apologising and finding a solution you can get things back on the right track.
In fact, some surveys have shown that customers have a more positive view of companies that make a genuine effort to resolve any issues.
Be careful in other languages
Operating across language barriers can be tricky, with a risk that well-intentioned messages or social media posts can be misunderstood. Starbucks accidentally offended Argentinian customers through a seemingly innocent tweet about running out of branded cups and using plain ones. Unfortunately, the language implied the locally produced cups were of poorer quality!
Avoid any problems by hiring native speakers to translate your localised websites and manage social media feeds.
What are your favourite tips for making a great impression online? We’d love to hear what you think!