Choosing between In house ORM and Outsourced ORM

The debate about whether a brand should indulge in online reputation management is over and the answer has been cemented to a bold YES. The latest development in the case is about whether the job should be done in-house or outsourced. This decision is a crucial part of the strategic planning that goes behind designing a workflow, under which falls multiple segments like software decisions, designing SLAs, resource identification, response management, structured reporting.

Once the decisions about software selection based on requirements, SLAs and TATs have been taken, the next step is to identify efficient resources who can make sure the demands of the SLA are met while maintaining the decided upon first response time. Believe you me, this requires immense proficiency in communication as well as reasoning capabilities. So, if you are planning on hiring fresh pass outs for the job, for cost cutting purposes, you might just be putting your brands reputation at stake.

It is important to understand that once your brand is spoken about in the online space, you barely have any control about how it is going to be reacted to. The best you can do is try to keep the customers happy and prevent them from spilling any bad beans. Therefore, choosing the best crew to manage your ship is the only choice. The confusion here is whether to choose a bunch of people who have been long associated and has knowledge about your brand, but little knowledge about the relationship management process or to choose a group of people who are experts in that domain, but have little or no knowledge about your brand.

Before choosing any of the above, there are a few questions that you need to understand and answer to make the right choice.

1. Does your company have the required manpower; namely agents, account managers, researchers, analysts and domain experts?

2. If yes, do these resources perform multiple tasks at work and do they have enough time to dedicate towards ORM implementation.

3. Do you have expert analysts and the technology to keep track of how you and your competitors are performing online (24/7)?

4. Are there enough support experts to deal with complicated discrepancies or customizations?

If the above requirements have been met and you have the required workforce, you can give your in house ORM project a go. There are many advantages and disadvantages of having the project handled in-house, like:

Advantage:
1. You are extending your area of expertise, by adding another field of experience.
2. By engaging your in house resources for the process, you are reducing the risk of errors as they understand the dynamics of your business better.
3. The insights that are gained through online reputation management, does not get shared and remains with your company alone. This is qualitative and quantitative data, extremely important for building future strategies.

Disadvantage:

1. Industry knowledge is only one side of the coin; setting up ORM in-houses requires business process expertise, which needs to be built from scratch. Hence, consuming more time for the project to kick off.

2. In terms of cost-effectiveness outsourcing is more efficient, because they can take care of all the overhead processes related to training and maintaining the project, which gets tedious in-house.

3. Setting up an ORM team is equivalent to introducing a new department in an organization, hence the decision of making processes needs to come from the top management; which can be a big hurdle.

4. The process might turn out to be more time as well as resource consuming than estimated, because ORM is not just about human resource management but also technical implementation. For example, if you are planning to implement ORM as one of the focus areas of your company, it would require integration of multiple fields. Your company’s knowledge base, customer information base, etc. needs to be integrated with any external software being used for the process; and trust me integration is complicated and time consuming!

5. It also runs the risk of earning huge losses, due to latency or lethargy in the process, as well as due to lack of proper planning.

If your company does not have the required bandwidth of resources and expertise, it is best to outsource the project. Managing a brand online can be a very tedious task and handling it with sheer expertise is of utmost importance. An external ORM company has the experience they carry from handling other clients, which can be helpful in gaining better insights about your brand. However, outsourcing ORM can have its upside and downside as well.

Advantages:

1. Experts at work! The company handling your ORM comes with a past experience of working on similar projects and hence understands the domain and ways to keep your reputation maintained at an all-time good.

2. Expert project managers and support staff help in smooth functioning of the project and provide detailed insights. Their expertise in the field also helps handle customer relationships better and boil down to minimal response time on social media. This provides points for customer delight and allows good word of mouth corresponding great customer service.

Disadvantages:

1. An external partner doesn’t feel your brand’s ideology. They do not understand your brand inside out and hence might lead to a number of branding mistakes.

2. If the CRM tool in use is not one which has been proven to be best in the past, you might run the risk of huge losses due to unexpected software failures, lag in responding as well as integration falters.

3. If an understanding between the members of outsourced team and point of contacts from the brand has not been cemented, it might lead to a disastrous situation with extreme confusions and failed communication.

Whether in-house or outsourced, the main aim of Online Reputation Management is to understand what your customers and prospects believe about your brand. Successful ORM is only possible with the right mix of technology and manpower, which is also the deciding factor behind whether ORM should be handled in-house or should it be outsourced for better results.

Social Media Analytics – Necessity or Luxury ?

Social Media Analytics

It is surprising how only a few companies are conducting competitive analysis based on social media data. Almost all processes today are cloud based and social media is becoming the hub of all communications. Keeping tab of what your competitors are doing and how they are faring on social media can help you strategize your social content better.

Social Media Analytics is the ideal way to determine competitor strength, not just based on the responsiveness they receive on social media posts, but also based on the amount/types of complaints they are receiving. This gives an estimate of the total mentions your competitors are getting online.

Most small companies choose to opt out of social media analysis, however the user graph has seen a growth over the past few years. The number still stands at a small 36% of businesses, who use social media analytics to determine more than just competitor performance.

Let’s take a look at few social media metrics, measuring which can help build your business better:

1. Reach: Audience growth is the metric to be measured here with reference to the number of likes for Facebook and the increase in number of followers in Twitter. This however is not simply the count of number of followers but a complete analysis of growth over time. This includes percentage figures of when and why the growth or depression in audience has occurred.

This metric can also be further refined by categorizing the growth of audience into various stages, for example number of new followers, number of followers gained during a particular campaign, number of followers lost due to better competitor performance and more. This growth rate helps you evaluate the performance of your various marketing/advertising endeavors, for future application.

2. Engagement: Facebook comes with their own metrics for post engagement and reach, however such metrics are still just the basics of measuring engagement. Social media Analytics on the other hand allows you to understand detailed metrics related to which content generated what amount of engagement, who are the people (age, gender, income group etc.) and differentiates them from the silent followers list.

How does your business benefit from growing number of followers? The trick here is to measure whether your marketing efforts are actually reaching the destined people. The amount and kind of engagement received on various content pieces gives an idea of whether the buzz around your brand is genuine or not. Analyzing the engagement rate against the total number of followers allows a brand to identify potential customer/prospects with ease.

3. Acquisition: The two main metrics to be considered here are returning visitors and referral points. Understanding whether the audience your campaign/channel is receiving are new visitors or returning ones is important. This helps in understanding the likeability of your brand and also the popularity your brand is generating over time.
Another important aspect to measure is whether the audience is routed to your channel via social media references or any other means. This metric can be easily acquired using a social media analytics tool or Google Analytics.

CTR (click through rate) is also an important metric which helps understand where your audience is coming from. A detailed study about the various types of conversations your marketing tactics generate and how effective your social networking profile is proving to be can help depict accurate growth.

4. Conversion: Striking a balance between increasing the number of visitors to your website and the number of sales you make is extremely important. This also requires well defined paths to reach those goals, for example a target driven campaign can help you increase your sale during a particular season.

This increases the need to keep a tab on how many people visited your site and how many actual conversions have happened. This coupled with audience behavior around returning customers and tracking the buying phase through social referral pointers helps increase your sales accountability.

5. Activity: While most of the other metrics are customer centric, this one is more brand driven. Except from observing how your marketing approaches are performing on social media, if your customer service is taken online, the same can help you understand how your brand is perceived against your competition. An easy analytics study about the amount of positive conversations around your brand VS the negative conversations can give you live feed about your brand’s performance.

Along with brand performance, this also helps reduce your expenditure. From a whole command center set up specifically for customer service, if the amount of queries to be taken offline can be reduced to minimum, it can cut a lot of cost. This leads to a lot of savings for your business.

Apart from these there are a number of metrics that needs to be kept in mind for a detailed social media analysis to be possible. As social media continues to grow and the dependency on both qualitative and quantitative data for strategical planning increases, analyzing social data has become extremely important.

Here’s a list of metrics that a social media analytics report ought to have:

1. Total mentions received by your brand between a given period of time, across social media platforms. This also includes data related to which platform incurred how many mentions, helping determine which social channel is working in favor of your brand and which isn’t. It also gives a day wise calculation of when your brand is spoken about most.

2. Total number of impressions along with the number of conversations around a particular post/piece of content can also be calculated. To add more value to the measure, analytics can also determine the number of unique authors and sources talking about your brand.

3. An analytics report also helps understand the high and low points around the content you share on social media, based on which future content strategy can be designed.

4. The places where the maximum amount of conversation around your brand/campaign is coming can also be determined using special social media analytics tactics.

5. Amazingly, analytics can also find the influencers who are talking about your brand, which can be used strategically to endorse your brand in the future.

6. It can also help determine the device used to talk about your brand, such as a computer, a mobile phone, tablet etc. Depending on the device used by maximum people, targeted campaigns can be hosted for future endeavors.

Why Online Reputation Management is critical for growth?

The concept of Online Reputation Management is still confusing for a lot of people. Most tend to confuse this concept with social media monitoring/analytics and a lot of them tend to mix it up with Public Relations. What most people fail to understand, are the dynamics of ORM, which is widely divided into two main dimensions namely engagement based ORM and customer support based ORM.

The difficult part about reputation management is that it is determined by your customers more than your efforts. However, it is in the company’s hands to make sure that your brand is perceived in a positive manner. Along with great actual service, making sure that every negative conversation about your brand is dealt immediately can help increase the positivity around your brand.

Let’s understand what Online Reputation Management means!

Google your brand. What do you read about yourself on the first page results of Google? Is it good or 9 out of 10 posts about your brand is negative? This is what determines your online reputation. If most conversations about your brand has been mentioned positively, you are a likeable brand and have a good brand reputation online.

On the other hand if your brand has been spoken negatively about in most cases, your brand’s reputation needs repair. This can be achieved by monitoring the brand’s online activities and the way people are reacting to the same. In case of negative conversations about your brand immediate actions to curb the problem should be taken.

In addition to googling your brand, try searching your brand name on Twitter or Facebook, do you see any difference? Twitter and Facebook are becoming increasingly relevant compared with Google for finding out what people think about your brand. This is because Twitter and Facebook are more real-time than Google.

But why do you need Online Reputation Management?

Selling on Internet has changed over the past years. From a top down approach, where customers could only purchase online and not share their experiences, the increasing use of social media has led to a market scenario where selling is led by customer choices. In fact it wouldn’t be wrong if we say that each customer is being paid attention personally by customizing communications to suit their time and place of availability.

With so much investment going in to reach each customer, losing even one can affect the company’s business. Therefore, online reputation management! It helps keep track of what each customer/prospect is talking about your brand and allows you to interact with them directly. This also helps in taking care of your unhappy customers and responding to them immediately to solve their problem and reducing the negative comments/reviews about your brand.

How to perform good online reputation management?

The best way to make sure that you do not miss out on any conversations about your brand is to use an ORM tool. These tools help track all conversations that involve your brand, unless it is a private conversation or a post where your brand has not been directly tagged (these are limitations from the social media platform’s end).

The basic “mantra” to amazing ORM is the “Track, Respond and Resolve” philosophy. Good social monitoring tools can, not just track mentions on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and the like but also identify conversations on various review sites/discussion forums and more.

A dedicated team who are experts in the customer relationship management field should be deployed to take care of any form of negative conversation instantly. This not just increases customer satisfaction rate but also reduces the chances of the negativity spreading further.

Examples of Bad Online Reputation Management  

Social media is a place for the smarts! Your customers are extremely vulnerable and are prone to get hurt even with the slightest amount of criticism. Some companies, in the past have goofed up when it came to handling customer criticism/feedback. Well, you might have an extremely creative and sarcastic giant sleeping inside you, ready to slash back every time a customer speaks badly about you. But, it is best you gulp your ego and be polite! Here are a few examples of how companies suffered great loses financially and reputation wise when it came to handling online conversations.

  1. 1. Nestle: When Nestle suffered the “Palm Oil” related crisis (related to use of palm oil that was picked from deforested areas), people started complaining in masses. This was also accompanied by creation of tarnished images of the Nestle logo and putting it up as the profile picture by many. Here’s how Nestle reacted to the same and fell trap to something unimaginable. In the end they had to shut down their social media channel! Sigh!

 

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2. Dark Horse Espresso: Being nice to your customers causes no harm! When a customer is complaining about an experience they have had, it is best to be kind to them and apologize. This leads to making the customer feel more comfortable and also important. About Dark Horse Espresso, when a customer complained about insufficient electric outlets in a rather busy coffee shop, this is what the company came back with. Dark Horse, you could have done better!

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3. British Airways: For a service that operates 24/7 and deals with strict time schedules, it is necessary that their customer support operates round the clock as well. How easily they tell a customer who has a midnight flight that they do not operate beyond a certain time limit and hence their problem can be solved only after! Top aggravate the anger, British Airways also responded with canned messages which left the customers bitterly angry. Here’s what happened:

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Examples of Good Online Reputation Management
1. Flipkart: They might have goofed up in the past or while running a large scale campaign, however over time this company has learned to play the game smartly. For a company that receives huge number of billing or logistics related issues on a daily basis, Flipkart is actually doing a commendable job. Prompt responses (within 5 to 10 mins), promising results, taking the conversation offline to avoid further damage and providing faster resolution this company does it all. What helps them respond faster is also their specified twitter handle for customer support, which not just helps segregating the messages for ease of response but also keeps the negativity away from their actual marketing page (the face of the company). Kudos to you Flipkart!

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2. Air Asia: Even an angry tweet can be addressed with good care and can be converted into a wonderful conversation! Air Asia goes out to prove that immediate responses which are polite and informative can actually solve the problem with ease. Unlike British Airways, Air Asia responds to each customer with individual attention and hence performs better!

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3. Amazon: Calm, confident and adding a personal touch always works. Amazon uses this innovative way of adding the name of the representative at the end of every tweet. This adds a friendly touch to the tweet and avoids the mundane canned form of tweeting.

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4. Paytm: Although Paytm is comparatively a new brand, they still boast an amazing social customer support domain. Along with providing fast responses, they also follow back to make sure the customer’s problem has actually been resolved or not.

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Few Things to Understand about Online Reputation Management

1. Apologize: If it is a mistake from the company’s end it is best to apologize for the same at the earliest. Generally when a brand makes a mistake, it is picked up at the speed of light and before you know the news has spread to cause enough damage to the brand. However it is recommended that to maintain honesty and transparency, the brand apologizes and if possible even cover up for the same by giving the customer some special offer/gift or the like.

For example, when a lady tweeted about her unhappy experience with US Airways, she was not just ignored in the beginning but was also humiliated by posting an inappropriate picture along with their apologetic tweet. This made the airways seem sarcastic and unapologetic and let to a huge uproar among its existing customers and prospects. However, better late than never, US airways cleared the air by apologizing for the same over a tweet and a spokesperson also came forward to explain how the whole process happened due to the mistake of an executive.

2. Hacking: Being careful about your account credentials is something that no company can ignore. This should be backed up by high security anti-virus software, unbreachable firewall for the database and more. Competitor brands are constantly fishing to spoil your reputation. Here’s an example: Burger King’s twitter account was hacked and their logo and handle name were changed to McDonalds. Burger King however, got lucky and gained 10,000 new followers! They sure owe the hacker a huge burger and some fries!

On a serious note such hacking can be dangerous as most come with the intention to tarnish the image of the brand. Burger King reduced the damage by identifying the problem fast and resolving the same.

3. Negative Publicity: It is often said that no form of publicity is bad publicity, however increasing the number of followers by doing something negative does not work all the time! Negative publicity is generally used by celebrities (who are a brand in themselves) mostly. For example: Miley Cyrus did a series of publicity stunt videos/photoshoots with inappropriate dressing and also made public appearances which was not appreciated by the masses. However, this worked in favor of her by increasing her publicity and making her more famous than she ever was.

This philosophy might not work the same way for brands (companies), considering people invest money and trust when they become the customer of a particular brand. In fact, it might reciprocate in an opposite manner and lead to huge losses for the brand.

4. Social Monitoring: Your audience is spread across various social media platforms and it is not enough to simply keep track of Facebook, Twitter and the other popular social platforms. To make sure that you have 360 degree monitoring in place it is necessary to keep track of various review sites, hate sites and on page reviewing(ecommerce sites). These are the places where people tend to rate your products and give detailed descriptions about their bad experiences. According to a research conducted by BrightLocal, 88% of consumers reading online reviews trust them as much as they trust personal recommendations.

The solution to reduce such reviews is formerly to provide impeccable service. Another solution to the same is reaching out to people who review your products negatively on these sites and trying to redirect the same to a personal conversation.

5. Response Time: Understanding which message requires attention and which doesn’t is an important phenomenon to decide which mention requires immediate attention and which does not. However, if a matter is serious and ignored it might lead to a crisis situation and also cause losses to the brand.

A classic example for this would be the Dominos video prank crisis where an employee posted the video of a fellow employee sticking cheese up his nose and putting it on a sandwich later, which was accompanied by text which briefly read that it would be served to someone in the next five minutes and they would be eating it. Although the seniors in the company were made aware about the same, they waited for the CEO to fly down after 24 hours and address the issue. A lot of damage was done to the brand both financially and reputation wise by then, which could have been easily saved by taking down the video and apologizing for the same.

Dealing with Illegal Attacks

1. Increasing SEO: Your company might have received a number of negative reviews and negative mentions on competitor brand supporter blogs/articles. This will lead to a bad first image, with number of negative mentions, when people google your brand name. To avoid this, it is necessary to increase your SEO on the positive elements. Making sure that all the positive articles appear on the first page along with your company’s landing page and the like is only possible with flawless content optimization.

2. Removing Negative Content: Differentiating between genuine complaints and spam content is extremely important to reduce negativity around your brand. Your competitors might have adopted the technique of putting down competition by spreading bad word about you. It is necessary to identify such content/reviews and removing them before they gets shared by your customers. It is however important to make sure that genuine reviews are not deleted in the process as it might backfire and lead to the rise of another negative tide against your brand.

3. Online Investigation: Some reputation management cases might get extremely difficult and might require intervention of technical experts in cyber investigation. Skilled online investigators and analysts can track people from more than just social media, i.e. through email investigation, data cross investigation and more. This allows reaching the root of any cyber infringement and eventually solving difficult reputation management cases, which might require legal intervention.

If your company is not already doing Online Reputation Management, it is high time you started. There are a number of tools in the market which enables easy ORM through a simplified platform which also gives you deeper understanding of your company’s online performance.
Do leave your comments about any doubts or additions you would like to make.

10 Step Guide to Preparing Online Reputation Management Report

Online Reputation Management (ORM) has become an integral part of customer servicing in today’s date, however, many marketers still fail to understand how not doing it properly can negatively affect the company’s business. In fact a lot of sales (up-selling, cross-selling and even new prospects) are now dependent on how well a company interacts with their customers. “Word of mouth”, which is known to be one of the most effective ways of doing marketing, can be achieved using social media.

Measuring the performance on social media is another important aspect. While running a marketing campaign and measuring its performance seems to be a simpler task, reporting related to ORM can be pretty challenging. In fact it is in many ways different from the general reporting. With ORM, it is not just the performance of the brand that comes under consideration, but also aspects like how positively or negatively the brand has been spoken about, what are the high priority issues faced by the customers, what time of the day do the customers talk about your brand the most, what is the response time your servicing agents are taking to respond to messages online, and the list continues.

Here, I will take you through the entire process of generating an explicit Online Reputation Management report.

1. If you are a big brand and you are handling customer service on social media, you must be using a CRM platform, which helps track the people who are complaining or raising queries about your product/service and replying to them. If the platform in use also allows you to generate reports, it might be helpful.

2. Reporting is a tedious process; it requires generation figurative estimates and graphical representations for all aspects. The basic requirements being, total mentions, total number of cases responded to and the total number or actions taken/cases closed successfully.

Total Mention for Online Reputation Management

Total Mentions for Online Reputation Management

3. The next step is to identify the days/time frames when there was an increase in the conversations about your brand, which should also be backed with data about what led to the increase in conversation. (This can be food for thought for the marketing team)

4. Your report should also contain the sentiment perception towards your brand, i.e. whether your brand is being talked positively/negatively about, which should be presented in graphical representations providing percentage representations for each.

Online Reputation Management Sentiment Analysis

Sentiment Analysis Graph

5. Along with providing what is being spoken about, your report should also be able to tell you who is speaking about you and where. Influencers (people with a higher following, like celebrities) and people who complain repetitively (who might also be spammers) should be identified for further actions.

Social Media Mention Distribution

Social Media Mention Distribution

6. A categorically divided list of complaint types and the issues/topics being spoken about during a particular time frame helps understand where the brand is going and how successful are the marketing initiatives of the brand turning out to be.

7. Measuring the performance of your agents is another important aspect of reporting. Measuring in terms of how many messages were responded to by each agent as well as whose performance is better based on the number of errors made/responses made, helps in future internal endeavors of the company.

This should be coupled with the average time taken to respond to messages and the first response time, in comparison to competitor brands.

8. ORM reports should help the brand managers understand the perception of the brand, by their customers, better. Hence it should also provide detailed analysis of which form of content/strategy is working best for them and what can be the other variations that the brand can adopt based on competitor analysis.

competitor analysis

Competitor Analysis Graph

9. As much as it is important to understand the brand it is equally important to also understand the fans. This can be done through gender analysis and generating a count about which fan is talking the most about your brand.

10. Another important aspect of reporting is to provide suggestions and guidelines to the brand about what strategy/content is in trend and helping competitors garner better attention. This can help the marketing team of the brand understand the market better and hence design their future campaigns based on the inputs provided by the report.

A complete Online Reputation Management report contains both quantitative and qualitative analysis of the brand, helping develop effective strategies for future campaigns.

4 Ways to Differentiate Between Traditional and Social CRM

Traditional CRM to Social CRM

Engaging with customers is one of the most important aspects to maintain a good brand name. It is also one of the major issues that most companies find challenging. However, the customer relationship aspect of business is constantly evolving and the shift from “Traditional CRM” to “Social CRM” has taken “customer relationship management” as a concept and practice to a whole new level.

Here’s a glimpse at how the process has evolved and changed a lot for the good and a little for the bad as well.

1. Communication has now become a two way process. Reaching a company is much easier, thanks to the various social media channels like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and the like. A process which was traditionally focused on the company directing sales/marketing related content to their customers/prospects from a prerecorded set of data has now changed to a dynamic process where customers reach the company as and when they want.

This transformation is huge and a significant one as, the communication process which was predominantly brand driven has now shifted to being customer driven. More power to the public!

2. The focus has shifted from being sales driven to building relationships. Brands today have come to realize that it is the pool of returning customers which needs to be targeted and retained. A good “word of mouth” is company’s concern today. Retaining customers and keeping them happy is what social CRM has largely enabled.

Using platforms like Facebook and Twitter, companies can reach out to their customers which highly engaging content and also address their issues in public. This helps build transparency of the brand and also makes the brand more humane. If you have already connected the dots, social media has helped build a relationship between the brands and their customers, which eventually results in more loyal and returning customers, brand advocates and some free marketing!

3. Traditional CRM was a process, whereas Social CRM is a strategy. Traditional CRM practices involved a canned mechanism to make phone calls, send email messages or attend live meetings with existing customers and prospects. This has evolved to a more relaxed process with customers engaging in more personalized conversations with brands through social media.

This not just helps in building a better relationship with the customers but also enriches the brands customer data, which helps in targeting the marketing initiatives better.

4. The difference between Traditional CRM and Social CRM can be distinctly differentiated based on the software used. Traditional CRM tools were only focused at recording and processing information for direct communication, namely contact number, e mail address, mailing address and the like. It also had a limited capacity to record historical data; only data related to communication between the brand and the customer.

This has shifted drastically with the invention of software that could track their customer’s social behavior. This allowed the brands to understand their customer needs and interests better and serve them accordingly. It also allowed giving a more personalized direction to every communication with customers based on their interests.

From an unorganized dump of information about customers, i.e. traditional CRM, social CRM has moved to gathering and managing customer information into more strategically divided groups.This has not just helped in engaging with customers better but also increased each brands potential to spread a good word of mouth.