Reputation ManagementYou know that feeling when you’re watching a really bad sitcom or movie where the plot is driven entirely by a stupid miscommunication that could easily be resolved if someone would just say what’s on their mind? And you’re sitting there going, c’mon!! tell him you really do love him, NOW.

And then your companion says, but then there wouldn’t be a movie?

(and you’re thinking, yes, and then I wouldn’t be sitting here wasting my time but that’s not the point)

You know what I’m talking about, right?

This is how I felt when I took a look at Skweal, it provides customers a way to reach business owners and managers regarding a negative experience without publicizing the issue in your twitterfeed of thousands of people. It gives owners and managers a way to “keep negative feedback offline.”

I love the concept, But, but, but, if business owners and managers took it upon themselves to make it easy for their customers to provide feedback about their experience, we wouldn’t need it. Right?

The reality is, we do. So cheers to Skweal for coming out with it.

I remain skeptical, however:

  • Skweal is for negative experiences. Does it become one big online bitch session?
  • There is a huge learning curve to get businesses on board. The cleaners on the corner that ruined your shirt? The neighborhood restaurant that served a salad with a bug (at no extra charge)?

But the real deal-breaker for Skweal, as I see it:

  • Customers don’t WANT to complain privately. They LOVE the opportunity to out your dirty laundry and ridicule your inefficient systems. How will Skweal change that mentality?

I am not trying to steal any thunder from Skweal. If you can keep even a few conversations offline, then that’s great. And it could very well grow into an indispensable tool to be integrated into reputation management strategies. So let’s keep an eye on it. Go ahead, register your business. It certainly can’t hurt.

But in the meantime, are you managing your reputation?

Are you providing easy access to your customers for feedback?

  • If they don’t have a private channel in which to vent, they’ll go ahead and step up to their microphone.
  • Treat every issue like it could be the United Breaks Guitars issue. He tried to get help privately for 18 months to no avail. Finally, after he created a video that has attracted 10 million views, NOW, they want to fix the problem, but it’s too late.
  • Set up Google alerts with your company name and your name.
  • Monitor your reputation online – be diligent. Google alerts is not a no-fail system. Check yelp, TripAdvisor, and foursquare. You should have already claimed your business page and be receiving notifications when someone reviews you.
  • Don’t leave an online complaint unanswered. You may not turn around the complainer but you do have an opportunity to turn anyone who reads the complaint later. I just saw Jay Baer speak this week, about his book The NOW Revolution. He shared a comment he found on TripAdvisor. Ok, a scathing complaint about a motel. That included the sentence:

“DO NOT STAY HERE. My wife and I are gonna go get tested for HIV because of this bed”.

This review has been left unanswered by the owner for years, and although the reviewer is more than likely never to return no matter what you do, a response, and perhaps an explanation that the motel has been completely renovated, anything!!! Will keep the rest of the thousands of people who see this review from deciding not to patronize your business.

Make it easy for them to contact you directly:

  • Phone number, email address on website and materials, and onsite.
  • Comment box – on-site and virtually – have a private comment box on your site. (Now there’s an idea for Skweal – provide you with a virtual comment box for your website and social network pages.)

What are some ways to provide easy feedback channels for your customers?