The UK SEO community was so inspiring during the last several days. After the sudden death of Jaamit Durrani, one of the most popular UK SEO specialists the community has proven that even a huge loss like this one can have a positive impact. The way people have come together to support Jaamit and his family and to spread the love all over the Web and in real life as well has made the virtual tubes feel a bit warmer this winter.
I’m probably not the right person to commemorate Jaamit though, others who have known him better than me already did write some powerful tributes.
Today I want to write about another case of loss many business people will face online. The loss of reputation. A by now infamous New York Times article dealing with an ecommerce vendor who even provoked bad reviews to get better rankings on Google has highlighted this topic last week. So what do these two quite different negative news have in common? People are dealing with problems or even downright tragic events and are trying to turn them around to have a positive impact in the end.
Of course I don’t compare the overwhelming and uplifting reaction by the SEO industry to the tragic death of one us to the awful “any publicity is good publicity” attention whore the NYT describes.
The point here is this: You can turn a big loss into something positive but you can also mess up like the guy the New York Times features. It depends on you and how sincere you are. It happens all the time: Disgruntled customers vent their anger on the Internet after they have been treated badly, or simple because the service or product they paid for was poor.
Google reacted quickly and made an “algorithmic change” to prevent webmasters from taking advantage of this loophole. Now you can’t get higher rankings by collecting negative reviews anymore according to Google itself.
Now that I have witnessed that even a tragic death can make people come together and act together on behalf of those who suffer it seems far easier to deal with common problems people encounter in their daily life and on the Web. You have to act though. Or rather you have to find out there is a problem in the fisrt place and then act.
Find out who suffers:
There are plenty of tools by now that allow yo to listen whether someone suffered because of your poor service or low quality product. You need to at least search twitter one in a while for your name or arther brand name on Twitter to find those who did.
When someone suffers you need to stop the suffering. When someone is angry or sad because your product failed you need to help. At first you need to communicate your desire to help. Even that you listen and notice is sometimes enough to alleviate the suffering your failure in the past has prompted.
Make sure there is no repeat suffering:
When one person voices a problem with your product or service s/he is probably not the only one who actually suffers from it. Either find the others who do (aka recall) or inform potential victims of that issue and how you deal with it. It might be an outage, a data loss, a security breach where people need to be warned and informed to prevent repeat suffering.
Myself I’m on both sides of the table. Quite often I consider an angry blog post or at least a tweet to vent my anger and frustration with some awful company or utility. In most cases I don’t write anything. Sometimes I do. These week I did write two blog posts powered by deep disappointment. On the other I do client ORM (online reputation management), listen and care for disgruntled customers myself. I know that even behind some awfully misguided rants there is always a true true story of disappointment.
Always remember: An angry and frustrated customer is better then no customer at all. Any publicity is not good, but any feedback is good feedback. It’s like a pain in the gut which tells you that you’re sick. Without it you wouldn’t go to the doctor. On the Web you need to listen to the pain of your customers to heal your business and to fix your products or services.
I use blogs in this way: I blog about the product and encourage all kinds of feedback. It’s better the people have an option to voice they’re concerns in the first place. Facebook and Twitter are fine but not enough. Encourage the feedback where you are and where you can help best. Set up a feedback community or site. There are plenty of services out there where customers can make their voices heard even without badmouthing you on third party social media.
You can use online tools like Uservoice and Get Satisfaction or software you install on your own servers like OpenMind and Vox Populi. Listen up, reply and repair. Negative feedback and even loss of your online reputation can lead to sigificant improvement.
* Image by Benson Kua