The Reputation Shock
A 60 years old English entrepreneur who spent his entire working life building up his reputation as a serious, noticeable business man has woken up one morning to find himself staring at his computer screen with disbelief. A life-long customer referred him to the search results against his store chain as they appeared on the first page of the Google search engine. Page after page, result after result – website visitors were being discouraged from shopping at any of his stores. The chain’s customer services was described as appalling and the business practices as dishonest. 35 years of solid rock reputation have been tarnished literally over night. Lie after lie, allegation after allegation. 3,4,5 different websites all of which seemed to have been devoted to ruining him company and his reputation.
Scores of internet surfers appeared to have left their comments on each of the tarnishing websites. The stories were very damaging and were likely to catch the attention of the off line media with possibilities of articles appearing in national newspapers. This was the point where the veteran business man suddenly had woken up to the fact that the world has changed and that negative comments by whoever it might be could destroy life-time work almost overnight.
This very successful, somewhat old fashion business man used to be in control during his entire business life. Now it appears he wasn’t any longer. So he called his trusted lawyer for the past 25 years who admitted, this was a new territory for him too. “The normal legal tools” the solicitor said “might not work in this case”. “In fact the normal legal tools might actually exacerbate the situation further”, he lawyer added. “This is the unknown land” he told his client, “We need to tread carefully”.
Watch Your Back!
A client of my Internet law firm, a small international book publishing company had woken up one morning to discover that she had no reputation or business left. A competitor in what is already a tough market had been conducting a negative campaign about her company for a few months now with the aim of getting her out of business.
This case ended up in the High Court where despite what the Judge said, my client was left with a tarnished reputation which had in effect blocked any subsequent attempt by her to get back into the same line of business.
So What Does This Mean To You?
On average they say, 1 in 5 happy customers will put a good word about you to one friend or one relative, perhaps earning you business this way. 1 unhappy customer on the other hand will tell between 5-10 people about his bad experience which means that bad news travel much faster than good news. No matter how much effort you put into good PR with your clients and employees, one bad experience can ruin the whole lot. Can you do anything about this? Sure! This is what you need to do: As a starting point, follow these 3 steps. They will reduce the risk of online damage to your reputation.
They are general good business practices too so don’t delay and start implementing now. The 3 steps that you need to take are:
Learn to treasure complaints. You don’t need an internet lawyer to tell you how important it is for you to respond to complaints quickly and to avoid procrastination. Follow each complaint through with a view of satisfying your customer’s anger and frustrations. It is a fact of life that complaints stay in the family for a very short time and if not resolved promptly, there is a risk that any griavance could end up being exposed to the entire world. Don’t ever be defensive. If you are in the wrong, simply admit to it and make amends.
Initially, all that your unsatisfied customer desires, is for you to put things right. Later on your customer’s goals might change, and revenge could become their new desire. By this time, you might have lost control over the whole situation which leaves you valuable to online attacks on your reputation.
Read and hear what your customers are saying about you. Search the internet for your company’s name and brand using the normal Google search engine as well as Google Blog Search or any other free search tools that are available online. This will reveal to you many of the blogs and discussion groups where your company’s name has been mentioned. This is what your customers will see when they search for your company. Hopefully you will not find anything alarming and in such case you should continue monitoring these websites and discussion groups.
But if you do find unpleasant comments, this is still not the end of the world and there is plenty that you can do to repair the damage.
You can actually influence what your customers see when they search for your company online. Try to get involved in online discussions and post articles and comments online using various methods such as blogs, discussion groups websites and more. Whenever you find negative comments about your company, join the discussion by introducing yourself and try to put things right. Don’t simply stay away and hope that this will just disappear because it won’t. If you feel that the situation is getting slightly out of control, get expert advice on internet law. Internet lawyers provide constant monitoring of your reputation and offer can give you good practical advice on how to form a strategy to combat online attacks on your reputation and how to protect your online reputation through the courts of law.
There are other companies out there that provide tools which aim to remove unkind web pages from the first page of Google Search but using those companies must be your very last resort because they are not cheap and in some cases tend to require long term monitoring and management.
An internet law expert also can help you manage your online reputation by using verious legal tools which have proved time and time again to be extremely effective.