Managing the reputation of your brand isn’t easy—and when you add the internet into the mix, it gets ever harder. Consider just some of the factors that make this challenging:
- Things move quickly on the internet, and virality—for better or for worse—can be achieved literally overnight.
- The volume of online interactions can be impossible for small teams to manage.
- With so many places to contribute online, it can be tough to know where customers are even talking about your business.
- Or the opposite can be true: you may have some happy customers, but no one’s talking about your brand anywhere.
- Or, word about your brand may just get lost in the crowded noise of the online world.
There’s no shortage of challenges when it comes to managing a reputation online, yet for most companies, doing so is essential.
In this article, we’ll look at why online reputation matters so much, and how to manage it effectively using a call center.
Understanding Online Reputation Management
First things first: what exactly is online reputation management?
Online reputation management, or ORM, not only impacts how connected customers feel to your brand, but has wide-ranging impact on customer loyalty, overall sales, brand authority and more.
Brand reputation, especially online, plays a significant role in all of these areas. For example:
- 60% of US consumers said they’d stop doing business with a company they saw as untrustworthy.
- 59% of consumers do online research before purchasing to ensure they’re making a good decision.
- A massive 97% of consumers consult online reviews before purchasing.
As this data indicates, a negative brand reputation—especially in the online world—can make an outsized impact.
A common misunderstanding is that ORM is basically PR, but this isn’t the case. PR (Public Relations) manages brand reputation both online and offline. PR focuses more on public perception of your brand and outreach in all spheres, whereas ORM focuses on the online perception. This is becoming more and more important as customers shop, work, and connect with friends online.
The 7 Ways Call Centers Contribute to Online Reputation Management
So, how can your call center contribute to your ORM efforts? In our decades of experience working with clients on customer service, here are 7 key factors we’ve seen contribute to ORM.
Providing Exceptional Customer Service
One of the best ways to effectively manage your online reputation is to provide customers with exceptional customer service in the first place. Companies who have great customer service—think Zappos, Chewy, Southwest Airlines, and so on—tend to get great press online. Not only do they have strong customer reviews, they also have a loyal base of customers that have had good experiences and now are committed to continuing to shop there again and again.
Obviously, a call center can help you significantly improve your customer service, both directly and indirectly. Whether you need a call center to help you manage call center overflow, want to start offering omnichannel or 24/7 support or just need to upgrade your service levels with highly skilled agents, outsourcing your call center can provide the support you need to provide exceptional service every time.
Managing Social Media Interactions
Modern call centers do more than just managing calls—they can also manage email, social media and other online interactions. Social media is an especially important aspect of your ORM, as it’s extremely public-facing, and the sharable nature of social media means that things can go viral quickly—for better or for worse.
Call centers can provide omnichannel support, offering a seamless experience for customers regardless of how they contact you. But call centers can also help manage the volume of social media, and the constant nature of requests. Many modern call centers leverage social monitoring technology to listen in on social media channels for mentions of your brand or products, allowing you to quickly and effectively respond to social media interactions, good or bad.
Handling Online Reviews and Feedback
Managing online reviews is another essential part of ORM, and one that call centers can help with as well. Reviews are growing in importance for consumers—89% of consumers consider them an “essential resource” when making purchasing decisions, and 94% of customers say that a negative review has stopped them from making a purchase.
Those numbers are sobering—but that doesn’t mean that you should have no negative reviews at all. What it does mean is that negative reviews need to be carefully monitored and managed to have the appropriate effect on consumers. After all, the presence of some negative reviews—when appropriately handled and responded to—can increase trust and transparency among customers, which can improve your brand authority and reputation.
A call center can help you effectively manage online reviews and feedback by:
- monitoring review sites and incoming feedback regularly
- responding quickly to negative reviews with an offer to help
- following up with customers who have left reviews to ensure the problem has been solved, or to reach out for an updated review, if applicable
- collecting and organizing online feedback for your brand to learn from and improve your service and products
- soliciting online reviews from customers who have had a positive experience
Offering Rapid Response to Customer Inquiries
In today’s world, speed is the name of the game.
The faster you can respond, the better when it comes to reputation. Just think back to the last time you had to call customer service for help and got stuck on hold for 20 minutes, or had to wait two hours for a callback. Were you very satisfied with the service?
The latest customer research backs up what we intuitively know is true: 82% of customers expect an “immediate” response when they need something from your customer service team. Call centers can help you accommodate this growing expectation. When you outsource your call center, you can access specialized service and scalable operations that can help you both staff the right number of agents and offer the right service—whether that’s 24/7 service, overflow service for peak periods or something else.
The end result is faster and more timely service that results in better customer experiences and improved online reputation.
Implementing Damage Control Strategies
Of course, no matter how exceptional or speedy your service is, every company gets negative reviews or encounters a reputation crisis from time to time.
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You might think of Chipotle, with their food safety and E.coli outbreaks back in 2015-2018, or the backlash that United Airlines faced after a video of a passenger being forcibly escorted off a plane due to overbooking went viral online. In both of these cases, word spread quickly and consumer trust in the companies plummeted—but each company handled them differently.
While Chipotle took quick action, shutting down numerous branches, implementing new food safety policies and taking what was perceived as quick and heartfelt action, many people online chided United Airlines for not responding quickly or appropriately to the viral video or the situation. Audiences are quick to see through halfhearted responses—but a call center can help you ensure that you keep operations running smoothly while also implementing damage control strategies, whether that’s responding to social media comments, answering calls from customers, or managing outgoing communications.
Collecting and Analyzing Customer Feedback for Improvement
Aside from the crises, all feedback—positive or negative—is an opportunity to improve your company. A great call center partner can help make the most of your customer feedback by collecting and analyzing the feedback to help you improve.
This can look like:
- collecting and organizing online reviews and call center feedback
- analyzing reviews for sentiment and common complaints or feedback
- creating actionable plans for implementing customer feedback
- soliciting customer feedback, especially for metrics such as CSAT or NPS
- measuring customer feedback metrics over time
Remember that customers do want to see you implementing their feedback—not only does it show customers that their opinions matter and that you care about them as a brand, but it also makes customers more likely to provide valuable feedback in the future.
Encouraging Positive Online Reviews
Finally, call centers can help you solicit positive online reviews, which can significantly help boost your online reputation and offset any negative reviews you might also get from customers.
For example, your call center can:
- send customer emails and solicit feedback or reviews from happy customers
- implement CSAT surveys and NPS surveys
- promote and share positive reviews online or via social media
- thank reviewers for positive feedback and provide rewards or “thank you” bonuses occasionally
While call centers that provide great service will help encourage positive reviews naturally (as customers will be pleased to leave reviews about their great experience, if asked), a great call center will also help solicit those reviews as needed.
You can even have your call center manage reviews through a workflow system to encourage positive reviews while discouraging negative ones. For example, a call center might send out CSAT surveys to customers following an interaction. For customers who provide a high CSAT rating, a workflow might redirect them to leave a positive review online. However, for customers that leave a low CSAT rating, the workflow might redirect them to a help or contact page, or ask for more info for a personal follow-up.
Challenges in Online Reputation Management for Call Centers
Even with all the right tools in place, managing your reputation online doesn’t come easy. Two of the biggest challenges we commonly see with call centers managing ORM is keeping up with the volume of online interactions and balancing transparency and privacy.
While the volume of online interactions can be difficult to manage—even for an outsourced call center—they typically have many more resources than an in-house team does. This includes more staffing, more specialized expertise, software for social monitoring and listening, remote teams who can monitor round-the-clock so backlogs don’t occur and so on. In addition, call centers are more scalable, so you can manage your staff accordingly to adjust for seasonal peaks and declines in online volume.
Transparency and privacy are difficult to balance in the online world though. If a complaint was started publicly, you do want to resolve it publicly, so other customers can see how you found a solution, but you also need to keep customer details private. A good call center should be able to help you find best practices to maintain customer privacy while still providing transparent solutions that offer visibility to other customers.
The Future of Call Centers in Online Reputation Management
As today’s technology continues to grow and expand, call centers can leverage the best of today’s technology to assist with online reputation management. For example, many call centers today are using AI-powered software tools to monitor and analyze sentiment both within specific messages as well as across all mentions, reviews or customer messages as a whole. This sentiment analysis can not only quickly draw out common phrases or themes, but it can also provide assistance in marketing and communicating to customers.
In addition, machine learning tools can learn key phrases or sentiment to look for and then flag important, urgent or especially negative reviews online, allowing your team to focus on the highest-priority communications first.
Do you need a call center to manage your online reputation? In short, no—every brand has to manage their reputation, with or without the right tools for the job.
But having a call center partner certainly makes it easier and more affordable to effectively monitor and manage your online reputation, giving you a leg up against your competitors and helping you cultivate a brand image that retains customers, attracts their loyalty and boosts your sales.
For a call center partner that is here to help you maintain or improve your online reputation—and can get you results—connect with an expert from our team here at Global Response. We have decades of experience in customer experience and ORM, and we’re here for you.