How One Customer Can Have a Big Impact on a Company's Online Reputation

How One Customer Can Have a Big Impact on a Company's Online Reputation
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Originally posted on on 11/20/16

Years of work, extensive resources, and loads of money go into the making of a strong brand. But in today's super-connected economy, those brands can be taken down more easily than one might expect. Not by their top competitors, but by the average Joe behind a computer or smartphone.

You may deliver impeccable service, but occasionally something will slip through the cracks. A sales associate might be having an off day. A contagious illness might cause a location to be short-staffed. You may have an issue with a supplier and run out of stock of an item.

For whatever reason, a customer has an experience with your brand that is not at the level for which you are normally known. Then, they want to vent. And they do. Online.

How much can one, two, or a handful of negative reviews or posts actually damage an otherwise strong brand?

A lot.

This tale of digital David and Goliath is commonplace: one or two consumers throw stones at your brand online. Thousands of potential customers see their negatives posts and decide against doing business with you. Sales plummet - and often management does not know why.

Without the right monitoring tools and analytical skills, it is difficult for managers to understand what is happening with their brand online. Often they do not discover problems until their reputation has incurred significant damage. Because their customer satisfaction levels are high, they assume online sentiments match.

However, studies show that both B2B and B2C customers are more likely to share negative experiences than positive ones in person, on social media, and on review sites like Yelp. This is particularly troublesome for businesses because the sites where customers are likely to share their negative experiences tend to rank well in search engines. Because of this, potential customers find the undesirable content early on in their research, marring their first impression of your company.

It is easy to imagine how a bad review or two can jeopardize a company's online reputation - and the statistics support it. In one survey by Dimensional Research, 86% of customers who read a negative review online said that information impacted their purchase decision.

How many potential sales are jeopardized by poor results in Google? While the answer to this question varies by business, online reputation is extremely important for almost all companies. According to a report by Fleishman-Hillard, 89% of consumers conduct online research via search engines before making a purchase.

This percentage is even higher for B2B. Acquity Group's 2014 State of B2B Procurement Study found that a whopping 94% of buyers complete some sort of online research before making a business purchase. 77% of these use Google.

You can imagine the immense impact just one or a few well-placed negative comments can have on internet searchers' perception of a brand. This is why experts like Bruce Rogers, Forbes magazine's Chief Insights Officer, call online reputation management "the new black" in corporate strategy.

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