Rants on the Net

I spent some time this week looking into an organization and found a host of messages, feedback and questions about how much of a scam it is. Granted some people had legitimate complaints. Others, though, used the forum to rant or, worse, spew venom simply because they could.

This happens. We all know it does, and it has been well-documented. Protecting your reputation is tough work. There are three main reasons why:

  1. Any word-of-mouth, especially negative, is near impossible to control because…
  2. Once something is out there, it’s out there, and…
  3. People tend to want to believe the bad stuff, as a way to create their own drama or simply stir the pot.

It has been the same way for centuries, becoming increasingly difficult as technology improves. What makes it a Sisyphean effort is the fact that over the internet you can expose millions of people to information, accurate or not, with the click of a mouse. And you have a greater chance of permanence. Some of the things I found about this particular company went back to 1996.

It’s a scary thought, I know. But there are some things you can do to guard yourself against it, although nothing is foolproof.

  • Make sure you are delivering on your promises.
  • When you make mistakes, and you will because we all do, own up to them. Not in a lose everything in a court case kind of way (listen to your attorney). But don’t be afraid to admit you did something wrong or at least that things didn’t work out as planned.
  • If someone files a complaint, resolve it quickly and to the individual’s satisfaction as much as possible.
  • Franchises and regional offices are most vulnerable because they are separate from the home office. Be wise in choosing who is in charge and manage them well. This doesn’t mean micro-manage. It means staying on top of what is happening and looking ahead for potential problem areas.
  • Absolutely delight your customers. They will be your biggest advocates and will be the first to come to your rescue.

What other suggestions do you have?

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2 Responses

  1. […] the Right Tone Posted on March 6, 2008 by cpmccrory Following yesterday’s post about people ranting on the internet, one thing that companies can do is set the proper tone. And the best way to do that is to […]

  2. You are so right!! Absolutely nothing will sink an organization as much as even one negative statement. This happens in the academic sector as well as in business. It takes four times the effort to control as verbal damage as it does to, as you state, stay on top of potential problems as well as the image you are projecting. This cuts both ways. One very excellent school made what many believe to be the correct forward thinking moral choice in the early 1960s when it chose to integrate, the first to do so. For the next 30 years the school and its supporters patiently and positively worked toward combatting the resulting negativity . The rampant negative word of mouth did not mean that the school’s choice was a major blunder; quite the contrary. It ultimately brought awareness of the moral imperative that we are all equal and deserve equal opportunities for success (however one may choose to define it) to the forefront. The negative publicity served to keep this school in the minds of the naysayers as well as the supporters; with a lot of work, many negative minds were exposed to the extraordinary positive aspects of their academic program. As a result many are reaping the benefits of an educational experience that is at once excellent and diverse. After all, this IS the world in which we live. Impressions, perspective, and words have great power. It takes a lot of effort to use these tools in a positive, effective manner to achieve the preferred outcome.

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