Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Do blogs drive public perception of a business?

You bet they do. A reader emailed me a post on social media and reputation management that featured my post entitled, "All Men are Pigs" that discussed my negative experience at a health food store. The former post makes clear how important it is for businesses to monitor their online reputation:

An online dialogue about your goods, services or business practices can be the sharpest of double-edged swords: everyone’s either a critic or an advocate. But mostly a critic. When’s the last time you blogged about how glad you are that your morning soda wasn’t stale, or that your roof didn’t cave in today? After all, we’re more likely to tickle a keyboard in frustration than praise. It’s human nature. And due to the social networking explosion, there’s a lot of human nature out there for your current and prospective clients to see. If William Congreve thought scorned women were bad news, he would have been even more disturbed by what a disgruntled customer can do to a business’ reputation over the Internet.

Which begs, nay screams, the question: are you managing your online reputation?

I must say that I have been very impressed with some of the social media people who have stopped by here and other blogs to comment and offer help or apologies. For example, I just wrote about my experience with Comcast and heard from their Customer Service Center in the comments. I emailed Melissa Mendoza to tell her my complaints and she said she would have someone call me from the local Comcast office to see what can be done. My phone rang and a professional Comcast customer service person listened to my complaints but said that I would have to pay the extra charges, downgrade my service, or bundle all my services together to get a reduction in price. Nice gesture, but nothing was accomplished.

Perhaps bloggers should offer more praise when things go right with businesses. For example, my local Walgreens was awesome today in helping me to get the drug Tikosyn that I take for my heart rhythm problems, even though there is a shortage currently. They called me promptly when there was a problem and helped to resolve it.

Do you think that it is important that businesses monitor their online reputation and respond to bloggers and readers who criticize them?


Blogger Larry J said...

I recall an old saying, "If you like something, you'll tell your friends. If you dislike something, you'll tell everyone." The Internet makes that so much easier.

Should bloggers praise good service? Sure. Should they point out bad service? Sure, so long as the complaints are accurate.

Should businesses monitor their online reputations? Absolutely. Some of the complaints they see may have no basis in fact but most of them will. If they're serious about maintaining and expanding their customer base, they need to find out what their customers like/dislike about them and make the appropriate changes whenever possible.

4:32 PM, December 29, 2009  
Blogger Bob Sorensen said...

Although my blogs are low-powered in the hits department (my lifetime achievement is a half a day of hits for Dr. Helen), it's mine and I use it. Blasted away at getting ripped off by Western Digital, but also using it to praise businesses that do right by me.

6:18 PM, December 29, 2009  
Blogger Cham said...

When someone rips a business, I try to get a feel for what type of individual wrote the piece and whether they are a warranted in their displeasure or have some sort of axe to grind.

I'm not too concerned about bloggers but I do like sites where people can do a review of a product or store. If I can read 20-30 reviews I can get an understanding several opinions at once.

I have no beef with Comcast, I think the guys who come by in the van to do the installs and line maintenance are extra nice and often go above and beyond the call of duty. I have a distaste for the company's sales specials that seem to change daily and always include several fineprinted foot notes. Verizon, Comcast and Direct TV are probably responsible for the destruction of acres of forest considering how many mailings I get that go straight into the trash.

10:03 PM, December 29, 2009  
Blogger Peter G. Miller said...

One of the reasons the Internet is a natural outlet for consumers is that they have few other places to go. Newspapers don't print many letters, TV stations broadcast just about none and there are few radio outlets for consumer issues.

Ask yourself this question: If national banks are regulated and you have a complaint which federal agency wants your email? Where is the web page?

Here's another example: There is NO federal law which makes predatory lending illegal. See: Why Aren't Predatory Loans Illegal.

10:43 AM, December 30, 2009  
Blogger Brother J said...

A business would be foolish not to monitor its on-line reputation in this day and age because reputation is everything for a business. Viral markteting cuts both ways. Your and Glenn's own experiences with various customer service complaints that you have publicized here and at Instapundit have gotten the attention of the businesses involved many times and the as you have posted on the outcomes you have probably influenced a lot of people's buying decisions.

12:33 PM, December 30, 2009  
Blogger TMink said...

While I am not thinking that blogs drive public perceptions, they certainly contribute in a positive or negative manner. Wise companies view complaints as opportunities to deliver impeccable service. Too bad comcast could not follow up.


3:00 PM, December 30, 2009  
Blogger TeeJaw said...

Blogs may encourage savvy businesses to be more mindful of how they conduct their business because anyone can have a blog and use it to vent their frustration with a business.

3:51 PM, December 30, 2009  
Blogger TeeJaw said...

Of course, anyone can blast email to all their friends as well.

3:56 PM, December 30, 2009  
Blogger Derve Swanson said...

I'm kind of glad that they stuck to the same packages, and offered you the same deal after you complained on your blog. If that's what the everyday person gets, that's what you should get, and choose if it fits your budget/needs or not.

If you would have written that after your complaint, they found a special deal for you -- some package that was otherwise unavailabile until you publicly complained or to other non-blogging customers -- that wouldn't be cool to me.

Your complaint was with their general offerings, and they confirmed that's what's available at those prices right now. I'm glad they stuck to their principles, instead of oiling up the squeaky wheel (and passing your savings on to those who pay the going package rate.)

My phone rang and a professional Comcast customer service person listened to my complaints but said that I would have to pay the extra charges, downgrade my service, or bundle all my services together to get a reduction in price. Nice gesture, but nothing was accomplished.

They educated you to why you couldn't get what you wanted at the continued discount rate. That was accomplished, no?

4:33 PM, December 30, 2009  
Blogger Derve Swanson said...

Too bad comcast could not follow up.


But they did follow up. An email to let her know where to direct her complaint/concerns. And then a prompt phone call to see if her needs could be addressed. Turns out, the original rep got it right in presenting the options (bundling a new package, downsizing to pay less); Helen just didn't like the options offered and might want to consider the offerings of other cable providers, dish networks, etc.

They just didn't specially adjust their package rates because she complained publicly and has a husband with a well-read blog.

Same thing that would have happened had you or I called in asking what package deals were available to us at what prices.

If we want to get costs under control in general, I like that public complainers don't get a special deal just to avoid "bad" publicity. I doubt I'm in the minority on this one either, and I really don't know the blog hostess well enough to be happy for her personal savings, if she had arranged a special deal not available to others.

4:39 PM, December 30, 2009  
Blogger Dr.Alistair said...

in canada we don`t have the kinds of choice regarding internet, phone and cable providers. we have government legislated monopolies keeping prices artificially high and mind-numbingly tedious complain processes wherein most people give up....especially when it comes to physical connectivity. who has a whole day to stay home waiting for a technician?

and yes, there is a package waiting for the persistant complainer who knows the department to ask for. with most providers there is a loyalty department with last recourse offers for the 1% who refuse to be put off....but you have to be prepared to go elsewhere and make that clear.

6:14 PM, December 30, 2009  
Blogger Bob Sorensen said...

A bit of a broader topic, the Web can certainly make an impression on public opinion. Just ask Domino's Pizza, when their employees were caught in the act of ruining food.

6:29 PM, December 30, 2009  
Blogger Peter G. Miller said...

Stormbringer makes a good point -- it's not just that the Internet is available, there are related technologies as well. Think of all the small video cameras, the cameras used at police stops (good for good cops), etc. A lot of things that could have been denied or which would never have gained attention can now be found online.


6:38 PM, December 30, 2009  
Blogger TMink said...

"Stormbringer makes a good point -- it's not just that the Internet is available, there are related technologies as well."

An army of Poindexters! More seriously, the Internet and media technologies made it possible for the ACORN scandle. Without the tapes, there would have been no media and little public scrutiny.

The mainstream media losing their way continues to create opportunities for others.


10:39 PM, December 30, 2009  
Blogger Michael M. Butler said...

Dr. Helen, "ira" above is a spammer. Please consider deleting that post.

I'll email you a pointer to some stuff that Marc Danziger (of the Winds of Change/ blog) has published about small business reputation management. You might find it relevant.

12:05 AM, December 31, 2009  
Blogger halojones-fan said...

Didn't Congress just pass a law making it illegal to use the Internet to say anything positive about a product or service?

11:00 AM, January 04, 2010  
Blogger FOD said...

Over the weekend I wrote one of those rare posts in praise of a product the Otter Box for iPhone.
Tried to do a trackback it to the Otter box "blog", but got frustrated because Haloscan now tells me I'm spam. (Could not having upgraded to the paid js-kit subscription yet have something to do with that?)

11:09 AM, January 04, 2010  
Blogger CastoCreations said...

I definitely take into account any negative or positive experiences I read about online - blogs/facebook/ et al. Even if it's just something minor, it goes into my mind when I have business to conduct.

If I found any sort of negative posting about my jewelry I'd be devastated and definitely do something to try to fix whatever I'd done wrong.

Online reviews make a BIG difference in small and super tiny companies.

11:13 AM, January 04, 2010  
Blogger Jeff Stevenson said...

I think that perhaps your view is a bit skewed by the fact that you wield a very influential and thus powerful blog.

I am quite sure that Comcast doesn't care what Joe Six-Pack blogger thinks or writes. Businesses care about bad press and blogs are now included in 'press' if we define that as 'an influential communication tool that others pay attention to'.

12:55 PM, January 04, 2010  
Blogger Peter G. Miller said...

Jeff --

I see your point. Alternatively, I'm not sure the old rules of "influential" and "powerful" apply online because the Internet is a viral medium -- thing published in one place, even a small place, can quickly get picked up elsewhere. For this reason it makes sense for companies to pay attention to even small blogs and sites.


2:22 PM, January 04, 2010  
Blogger Jeff Stevenson said...


My point is exactly that - until a post gets picked up by that influential "elsewhere" it is just a little blogger venting to make themselves feel better. While it is true that there is a cathartic release to doing so, businesses don't care until it starts to have potential to hurt them.

I am trying to say that bloggers are at that point where they have become the influencers, they are the Times and the Post and thus Comcast listens to them.

Me and Drudge post the exact same complaint, who gets the first contact from Verizon?

5:40 PM, January 04, 2010  
Blogger Peter G. Miller said...

Jeff --

Being posted by a bigger site is important, but being picked up by Google is -- I think -- the real key. A blogged item can remain online forever -- for better or for worse.

If you get Google alerts look at all the things that get brought up from sites no one ever visits.

All the best,


5:47 PM, January 04, 2010  
Blogger Bob Sorensen said...


To reinforce what you said, someone did a search for my discussion on the failures of Western Digital, and landed on my Weblog a few minutes ago.

6:12 PM, January 04, 2010  
Blogger Peter G. Miller said...

Stormbringer --

>>>To reinforce what you said, someone did a search for my discussion on the failures of Western Digital, and landed on my Weblog a few minutes ago.

As well, they need not actually search for your post in particular. They could just search for "Western Digital and failure" or just about any other combination keywords that might fit your posting.

It can be useful to check your traffic references and see where people come from and, in the case of search engines, what terms they searched. You can then adjust your meta tag keywords to get more traffic.


6:18 PM, January 04, 2010  
Blogger Jeff Stevenson said...


Very good point about the Kingmaker, Google.

I suppose most every site I consider 'influential' started out somewhere and built an audience, possibly through Google.

It is fascinating to have watched, over the last 15 years, the growth of the Internet and the social change wrought thereupon.

11:32 AM, January 05, 2010  
Blogger Peter G. Miller said...

Jeff --

I am amazed by Google for two reasons. First, it's remarkable how quickly they can capture a new posting. Second, until Google no one ever sent me a check for my site. They democratized Internet commerce so that everyone can play -- and they have forced competitors to also pay up.

I admit to some prejudice in this matter -- Google blogs lists my site first for real estate information, a category with some 24.6 million listings.


11:44 AM, January 05, 2010  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Henry Ford used to walk around his plant, handing out $50 bills to workers he caught doing something RIGHT.

When I worked in the public sector in customer service, it became very clear very soon that people will write novels of condemnation of a person they hate, but you're lucky to get a thank you if you go the extra mile for a thousand people.

It's cultural. Americans are taught that if you want a great society, you harass, badger, badmouth and belittle people who don't treat you like the king you know you are. In other countries, they are taught to praise and bolster the individuals who behave the way we want them to (Cesar Millan is also a proponent of this philosophy, but I digress).

Americans are nasty. We love to hear people say "You're Fired!" and get a thrill when someone is voted off the island. We have come to associate power with the ability to ruin someone else's day or life. Pardon my ancient Greek, but we are becoming a country of heartless, thoughtless motherf*ckers, and I am frankly sick of it. I spent eleven days in Ottawa last summer, and the first thing I wanted to do when I got back was punch the first American I met.

1:47 PM, January 06, 2010  

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