Why Online Reputation Management Shouldn’t be a Knee-jerk Reaction

Whether you’re Abercrombie & Fitch writing a letter to the Mayor of NYC asking for help with bedbugs or Domino’s trying to assure consumers that boogers aren’t one of their main pizza toppings, managing your online reputation in these situations is definitely done on a case by case basis. Yes, reacting with speed is good, but so many times reacting too quickly can result in a lack of proper forethought.

One bad experience for one unlucky person can lead to endless problems with how a brand is presented online. If you don’t think that’s the case, then you’ve obviously never had to deal with a Ripoff Report.

There are right ways and wrong ways to handle every situation, but more often than not, responses to negative publicity, especially online, fall more into a gray area.

Let’s look at two real world examples from shopping experiences I’ve had in the last month. I categorize both of these as reactions that probably seemed like a good idea at the time, but now…

The Pizza Story

I don’t get pizza often, but when I do, I find myself going with the familiar. I tend to get the same pizza from the same place. It’s simple, straightforward, and requires no thought or effort. And let’s face it, if I’m ordering pizza, I obviously don’t want to put in effort.

However, in a recent discussion with a colleague, we weighed the pros and cons of stepping out of our safe, normal, routines and trying something different. Only by trying something different could we find something new. I think he was talking about business or something, but I was hungry so that’s what I got out of our conversation. Try a new pizza place.

Now there’s this little pizza shop not too terribly far from my house that I drove by all the time but had never tried. Me, being the adventurous sort, decided that finding their phone number online and calling them really wasn’t that much effort so I did the deed and typed their name into Google and whammo — universal search result.

The number was right there on the SERP. I didn’t even need to visit their site, but I was intrigued and compelled to click on a link, right under their name, to two reviews. If I was going to try something new and it moved people enough to review it multiple times online, then I definitely wanted a glimpse of what was in store for me.

Here’s what I found:

Pizza Reviews

Ummm… What?

It turned out that on April 1, 2009, an attempted robbery took place at this pizza place. The shop owner turned the tables on the would-be robber by drawing a gun, shooting and killing him. This was an unfortunate incident that made the local paper.

Obviously, afraid that this might deter business, someone named John (the shop owner’s name is John, but I’ll just leave that there) left the above review the next day.

Even the best of intentions don’t always transfer into good sustainable ideas. Perhaps, at the time, it really was a good idea. Maybe that one review made people feel safe and he was able to avert an ongoing crisis and keep his business going.

I seriously hope that’s the case. Because now, it’s well over one year later. It’s not a bad neighborhood. The people around town likely had forgotten most, if not all of the details, if they even knew of it at all. Now that review is sitting out there and as a first time customer I can see how that review might actually deter business.

If I’m going to pick up a pizza, safety is something that doesn’t ever come to mind. I want to think about toppings, not gun violence.

The Car Stereo Installer Story

So, I’ve got this car right? And I love it. But it’s got this stock head unit that’s been kinda driving me crazy since before I even bought it.

I remember going for a test drive and the salesperson trying to sell me on the radio features. The thought that ran through my mind before we even left the parking lot was that the stereo needed to go.

That was about three years ago and still here I am with the crappy radio. Well no more! As a reward to myself for being awesome, I was finally ready to replace my stereo.

The difference between this one and the 20 or so aftermarket purchases from my past would be that I wasn’t going to install it myself. Oh no. I’ve done it myself now so many times, but each time you pull on a piece of the dash and feel that tab of plastic holding on just so, you worry you’re going to break something.

Not this time. Not this car.

I have zero experience picking out a shop to do this, so I was hoping that Google would show me some options as far as installers, plus some reviews or experiences from other people.

One store in particular interested me, as I’ve driven by it for at least 20 years and I figured that for a car stereo place that longevity has to say something. I looked them up on Google and was saddened to see a dated Web site and zero reviews.

Zero reviews? For a 20-plus-year-old store that appeals to younger people throwing money around on expensive toys? That seemed odd to me.

I decided to look at some other options. Lo and behold, what did I find? A place not too far from where I work that has four reviews! Sweet. Let’s see what they say:

Car Stereo Installer Reviews

Ouch! Here we have a classic case of “Greg is going to take his business elsewhere.”

Why? First, you have someone giving a negative review in 2008. That’s fine. People have bad experiences and they like to share. One bad review won’t keep me away.

However, then we have the business owner (apparently “Alex”) replying to that review more than two years later and actually attacking the person who left it. I’m sure that to the owner, with undoubtedly a bruised ego, that seemed like a good idea at the time, but attacking your customers publically won’t win you new ones.

The Moral of These Stories

Your online reputation is a sensitive and fluid thing. Think before you speak and don’t let your emotions get the best of you. It is, after all, only business.

Do you have a similar story to share? Do you think these people could have handled these situations better? Leave your comments below or send me your story.

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