With more than 10,500 financial service companies out there, professionals are more exposed than ever to the backlash of negative online reputation damage. When words such as “scam”, “fraud”, “thief” or “criminal” are even casually mentioned in the context of a financial services entity, the company almost always takes a hit to the bottom line.
These comments are not to be confused with information on sites managed by state agencies or federal government and regulator sites such as the SEC and FINRA. Nearly every state provides a site to file either a formal or informal complaint against those involved in financial services. Many of these sites provide online forms and even extend office hours for convenience. If services provided fall within the broad definition of insurance then each state has an insurance commissioner to oversee such regulated businesses.
With Google’s most recent changes to its local listings functions, users are once again left to figure out exactly what it all means. For the small business owners dependent on local reviews, stars, smiley faces and other rating indications this may be one of the most frustrating aspects of using the Internet as a core-marketing tool.
An attempt to understand basic concepts of search engine optimization (SEO) is daunting to most daily business users. Expanding on that platform in an endeavor to discuss local search and SEO quickly sends local businesses heading for the exits. Dozens of consultants, vendors, college students and friends-of-friends all offer to clarify exactly how to benefit from these various services and search algorithms – for a fee. In the middle stands small business. Owners who are focused on the challenges of day-to-day business understand that the Internet is changing the way business is done but have little time to learn a whole new set of skills. Read more
By now, nearly everyone I know has purchased a Groupon discount coupon. I’ve started to receive daily discount offers from competitors like LivingSocial and Moolala and my family is taking advantage of discounts to places we might not otherwise consider. We try new restaurants, get our cars detailed, wedge in a massage or two; the merchants get a new customer and Groupon heads toward an enormous IPO. What could be better? Perhaps a lot.
The thought is that a deep discount coupled with a positive experience will deliver repeat customers. While this theory seems to be widely embraced, I believe that the assumptions are wrong. From my perspective, it is Groupon that owns the customer loyalty, not the merchant offering the services. The deal seekers and bargain shoppers come in with the expectation of getting an incredible deal with no less than top-notch service. And there is evidence to indicate that they are very willing to jump to online review sites and let people know how (bad) their experience was.
However, a dramatic influx of customers can slow customer service and irritate this new, Groupon-acquired customer. Service levels decrease due to volume and the next thing a business owner knows, their business has been reviewed poorly on Google.local, Yahoo.local, Citysearch or one of a dozen other consumer rating sites. Smiley faces turn to frowns and five-star reviews deteriorate into one-star ratings.
Groupon customers have very little loyalty to a merchant yet, as I mentioned before, expectations for service are high. Think about it: when a business is overwhelmed (having sold 1000 half priced dinners/haircuts/tans/car washes, etc.) the door opens for bad experiences all around. Disappointed customers are already online-savvy or they would not be participating in these discount programs. The ever-increasing numbers of review sites available provide many opportunities to express disappointment. In fact, based upon many conversations with Reputation Advocate clients, we believe that customers who have a positive experience seldom go online to offer complements. In many ways there is no way for a small business owner to win in this business model.
Adding insult to injury, statistics support a growing reality that repeat business is almost non-existent. Customer retention is low. In short, a merchant receives 25% of the retail value of the product or service. That amount is paid out over the timeline of the redemption period, not up front. The business is stressed, and may be forced to compromise service levels, disappointing new customers and triggering bad online reviews. I admit that I may be one of the few that see it this way. In fact, Groupon reported that as of Sept 2011 they had a backlog of 35,000 companies that hope to promote their products and services through this channel.
Be aware: online complaints can come from many sources. Former employees, competitors – or new (discount) customers coming with high expectations, little loyalty and a willingness to quickly let the world know of any disappointment experienced.
Steven Wyer is the Managing Director of Reputation Advocate, an online reputation management company based near Nashville, Tennessee. He is also the author of Violated Online, a book offering practical tips about protecting your online reputation. For more information about how Reputation Advocate can help repair your online reputation, visit the company website at http://www.reputationadvocate.com
In the past several years, online review sites have become increasingly widespread and easily available, allowing consumers to query information about individuals, services and products. Seldom is the origin of the content questioned. At ReputationAdvocate.com we see firsthand that the lack of transparency by a reviewer/commentator – coupled with no attempt to independently validate claims – has created challenges that few imagined could happen. When reviews are offered anonymously and statements, claims and criticism fill a review, it should raise questions of credibility – however many times it does not.
The team at ReputationAdvocate.com spends a lot of time listening to potential clients as they vent their frustration. ReputationAdvocate.com observes daily the inability to confront an accuser, attempt to rectify a misunderstanding or discuss an online opinion posted. The nature of these online sites is to allow free speech with anonymity. ReputationAdvocate.com empathizes yet delivers a straightforward message; the Internet does not play fair.
The challenge with many online review sites is that generally the posted comments, ratings and reviews face no review or approval process. The team at ReputationAdvocate.com knows that all too often these reviews are posted maliciously, with no recourse available when false and misleading statements are posted. As those of us at ReputationAdvocate.com have frequently pointed out, individuals seeking information online may not stop to consider the truthfulness of content found or the identity of the one providing the content. When people take online information at face value they set aside a natural filter that is used when engaging other forms of media observes reputationadvocate.com.
When taking calls at ReputationAdvocate.com, we often hear prospective clients make the assumption that a negative review is coming from an unhappy customer. In fact, these reviews could be coming from a related third party seeking an advantage by damaging the online reputation of the person or business named. As another post from ReputationAdvocate.com pointed out, “Jason M.” from Wisconsin could actually be an employee at one of that company’s competitors. The team at ReputationAdvocate.com has often noted that reviews can and do come from disgruntled former employees and dissatisfied current employers. “Consider the source” is difficult to apply in a world where anyone can pretend to be someone else at any time. There’s no way to prove Jason M. is in fact Jason M. at all.
So what can companies and individuals do when they find defamatory information on the Web? At ReputationAdvocate.com, the first question asked may be whether or not a customer or potential customers will see it. The prominence of negative reviews in basic web search determines how much it can impact a business’s bottom line. ReputationAdvocate.com regularly informs clients that many web searches rarely go past the first page or two of search results. If a rating site or opinion site has low authority with the search engines, such negative content may have little impact on the bottom line. Conversely, most rating sites that have high page rank can be very detrimental to a business. Many businesses are able to directly tie declining revenue to false online content. Thus, ReputationAdvocate.com discusses the economic evaluation process when a potential client is considering retaining the company to assist with derogatory content. ReputationAdvocate.com believes that any project considered to be tied to a return is clearly an investment.
2.3 billion searches are initiated on Google every single day. In many cases, the first source customers are using to find out information about your business is an online search. ReputationAdvocate.com will discuss this with you and is able to help evaluate whether or not such online queries are hurting your business.
If customers are presented with a hefty dose of criticism when they search for you or your business, ReputationAdvocate.com can help. With veteran specialists on hand to evaluate the specific origin, structure and authority of any given complaint, ReputationAdvocate.com recommends appropriate action to correct online presence and visibility and restore your ability to attract new business. The goal of our work at ReputationAdvocate.com is to deliver cost effective results that can be traced back to restored profitability.
ReputationAdvocate.com provides a free evaluation to all potential customers. During this evaluation, the experts at ReputationAdvocate.com will research your online presence and determine what ReputationAdvocate.com can do to help you re-establish your reputation online. You are under no obligation by having this evaluation conducted. However, should you need the services of an online reputation company, ReputationAdvocate.com can customize an online clean-up plan to help you.
While it is said that people are innocent until proven guilty, Steven Wyer experienced first hand that the Internet has interrupted such long held notions of justice. As managing director of Reputation Advocate, an online reputation management company, Steven Wyer now helps others who have been slandered online as he was. Adding the title of published author to his string of professional accomplishments, Steven Wyer has written Violated Online. In the book he offers more than 50 specific tips on how the reader can better prepare for an unexpected online attack. For more information about how Reputation Advocate can help you repair your online reputation, call 888-229-0746 or go online to http://reputationadvocate.com