Social media has given your customers a loudspeaker and you need to monitor what they are saying about you. The Internet provides consumers with limitless vocal power – both positive and negative. Size doesn't matter in this game. Big or small any company can have their reputation damaged by rumors, service complaints, and even malicious competitors. You need to be proactive about building a solid online reputation that can withstand the inevitable service failure complaints of everyday business operations.
Lisa Barone at Small Business Trends wrote a great article on the 4 Steps To Managing Your SMB’s Online Reputation. The article provides a great explanation of why auto repair shops should be concerned about social media and the four actions required to protect your brand. I'll focus on how these four actions affect the auto repair service shop.
Control your name. Even if you don't intend to use it secure your brand or company name on Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, YouTube, Yelp, Flickr, Wordpress, etc. This prevents others (your competitors?) from hijacking them for their own use.
Once you’ve protected your brand, get busy and build your online presence. When someone Googles your company you want them to find you. Not an impostor like your competitor.
Claim your online territory by:
- having a specialized auto repair shop website that all your marketing is directed to;
- list your business in local search engine indexes. Include your website address;
- make postings to forums and blogs that will attract customers. Don't spam! Make your posting relevant to the topic and readers. Include your business name and website address;
- make YouTube videos that will attract customers to what services you provide. Did I mention including your business name and website address?;
- and post photos on Flickr with your company name in the title.
Basically use every opportunity to get your company name on the internet for people to find.
Online Reputation Building
Watch what people are saying. Automatic alerts can help keep an eye on what people are saying about you on the Internet. Use free Google Alerts to set up alerts which are delivered to you by email. Google constantly digs through its massive Internet database looking for anywhere your alert words appear. Monitor your brand, your company name, your important front-line employee's names, address, etcetera.
Dealing with criticism
Auto repair shops who work hard at keeping a clean reputation will have very few negative comments from the wilderness of the Internet. But everyone makes mistakes and with the ease that comments can be made on the Web no shop will be immune from attacks to their reputation.
Social criticism will typically come in three forms: trouble makers trolling for some fun, individuals twisting facts or spreading false information, or someone who is genuinely unhappy and feels wronged.
If you find a ridiculous or unfounded complaint check out the author's history (click on their username) before defending yourself. They may just be a “troll” looking for someone to take the bait and be a victim. If your research shows they make a habit of causing trouble ignore them. Others will do the same.
Some people just don't play fair. If they don't get their way they're not above twisting the facts or outright spreading false information about you. Remember the words of Sir Terry Pratchett, "A lie can run round the world before the truth has got its boots on." You need to quickly speak up and correct the situation. Identify yourself as a representative of the company. Be informative without being vengeful or defensive. But always give them a way to back down and save-face. If you do a good job you might be able to even recover them as a customer – if you want them...
When you know you are in the wrong admit it straight up. Apologize. Explain or clarify what went wrong. Offer a remedy to the customer and how you will prevent it from happening again. Do your best to recover the customer and show others that you value their business and stand behind your services.
Internet empowered customers can praise or bash company brands at will. Auto repair service shops must actively monitor what is being said about them on social media to protect their online reputation.
P.S. A quick response is needed to both protect your reputation and recover customers when people are unhappy.