3 Ways Companies Hurt their Online Reputation even when they are Right and the Customer is Wrong

Back in the day, the communications between a business and its customers were basically a one-way street, with messaging through advertising and other brand-building efforts being distributed through traditional outlets such as television, print and radio. If customers wanted to communicate with businesses, the normal channels were by phone and via the mail, which basically excluded third parties from being privy to the conversation.

Hit fast-forward for a couple of decades to the present and this quaint form of communication has been replaced by the relative free-for-all of 2-way communication between businesses and customers, which are often conducted in full view of anyone with a passing interest on any number of social media platforms. One of the most surprising aspects for businesses in this environment is that maintaining a solid online reputation can be a challenging process, even in situations where they are right and the customer is wrong. Here are 3 ways that being right can still result in a damaged reputation.

1) Combative responses – Customer complaints can come from a wide variety of angles, with many being based on a misunderstanding or the misuse of a product. While these issues may not be the fault of the business, responding to these complaints or reviews in an offensive or condescending manner can quickly shift the focus from the original issue to one with wider implications; how the company really feels about its customers. Instead, in situations such as these, let diplomacy rule your responses and politely direct the complainant to the specific page in the owners’ manual that covers the issue or, better yet, to an appropriate instructional video.

2) Responses that don’t address the issue at hand – Responses like, “Thank for your response” indicate that the company isn’t really paying attention. Instead, respond to the issue with language that specifically acknowledges the complaint/review and then move on to providing a solution.

3) Not responding at all – Taking a position that a customer in the wrong doesn’t deserve a response leaves the question open as to whether the issue is a user-related error or whether there is a problem with the product. In the new world brought by social media, even customers in the wrong must be addressed, even if the reply is a brief one.

Being right doesn’t necessarily guarantee a solid online reputation. Keep in mind that your target market is watching your every move on social media platforms and that your responses to customers who are clearly in the wrong should be tailored to the complainant as well as to this much wider audience.

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