These days, most companies preach to their customers that they’re transparent and open in everything they do. They’ll insist that their customer service teams or dedicated account managers are at the ready to help and assist you, the consumer or client, with even the most frivolous requests or demands. Of course, as every consumer knows, the reality is somewhat different from the messages we see in advertising campaigns.
For a while now, and as part of a very deliberate marketing strategy, companies have rolled out their big guns to blog about the latest trends in whatever sector it is they operate in, and how their company is ‘leading the way’ and showing its competitors a clean pair of heels when it comes to innovation and new thinking. Positive feedback from a consumer base or a peer group is always welcome and comments praising the wisdom of the blogger or author are always made visible for the rest of the online world to behold. Negative comments, however, are a different story entirely: in a lot of cases, most find themselves swept under the carpet in the policy department by the merciless moderators who monitor such things.
The result of course is sweetness and light: the blogger in question gets to stand on a soap box whilst loudly pounding his chest while customers, and potential new clients, get to swallow all things good. But organisations that adopt a blanket ‘no negativity’ policy are completely missing the point, and risk being viewed with contempt from future clients.
By allowing customers to express their views freely and openly, and more importantly, by publishing that feedback and making it available to other users, the organisation in question automatically displays a policy of complete transparency. Some of the comments may not go down well at board level but then the truth, whatever that may be in a particular customer’s eyes, is usually hard to take.
What companies (and I’m referring mostly to large corporates here – I think SMEs have got a lead in this area) need to understand is that the number of hits a blog gets doesn’t necessarily make it a good blog; there are other considerations at play – openness and honesty are the two major factors that can make or break your blogroll all on their own.
So what can companies do to improve here? First, they should allow negative comments – in fact, they should encourage them. Blog posts should be signed off by asking for feedback and openly telling users that all comments – within reason, of course – will be published. When a company lets its customers, user or readers know that their views are taken seriously enough to share them with the rest of the community, the more credible the company becomes. Who knows, senior management might even learn something in the process.