How Much Is Your Online Reputation Worth?

I had a horrible customer service experience with a local body shop earlier this year when I took my son’s 1968 Mustang for repair after a collision. I blogged about it and my post ended up positioning in the top three results at Google, Yahoo and MSN when you searched for their business name. In that post, I used the opportunity to examine their customer service and see what we in the search marketing industry could learn by it.

That was back in July of this year. As a follow-up to the original incident, I get a call from them last week while I was out of town on a mini-vacation. I knew exactly why they were calling – they had found the post. They first wanted to get the car back in the shop so they could fix it correctly. A noble offer but unfortunately the car has since been sold. This leads me to question why did they not offer to make it right before they found that their online reputation had been tarnished?

Next the owner calls me and says he had “Google” his company name and to his surprise had discovered the report. He went on to explain how much money they lost on the project because of all the extra time they had to spend making after-market parts fit (of which they still didn’t fit correctly). He placed blame on the insurance company because they allegedly force body shops to use cheap after-market parts made in Taiwan of some place like that.

I explain that I ended up losing thousands on the car when I sold it because of their work. Furthermore the fact that they have to use crappy after-market parts is not my concern. I bring a vehicle for them to fix, bringing it back to at the very least its original state before the accident and they fail to deliver.

So the conversation turns to what will it take to get the original post removed? I tell them the same thing I asked for in the beginning which was for them to eat my deductible, a measly $500 on a total repair cost of over $5,200. Now $500 is not much money to me but it is the principle of the matter. I already lost money selling the car, not to mention that they had the car in their possession for two whole months. So all I want at this point is what I had to pay out of my pocket to the body shop which to me is a simple gesture of “we screwed up, let us do something to make it up to you.”

The owner offers me $250. I refuse and he hangs up on me.

In that action of hanging up on me, he decides first of all that I am not worth trying to please as a customer and secondly that his online reputation is not worth anything more than $250. I expect the next step he will take is to contact an attorney (which will cost him a lot more than $250) who will then send me a cease and desist letter of which I will ignore and then finally take me to court. This will end up costing him a lot more in time and money than simply agreeing to refund my deductible, not to mention that he did nothing to win me back as a customer. The case will most likely be thrown out as well because I simply reported my experience and did nothing to commit liable and slander. I was simply doing what every consumer does – tell others about their experience with products and services, whether that be good or bad.

So what is your online reputation worth? $250? $1,000? Priceless? I have found in my own business that if you treat customers as you would like to be treated and own up to your mistakes or shortcomings that not only will they come back to you again and again, they will talk about you in a positive manner. That my friend, is worth its weight in gold.

Post-script: As a follow up to this incident, the company in question decided to refund my deductible in exchange for removing the original post (which I have) and not writing anything further on the subject which I have happily complied with. Now if we could have just settled that in the beginning, I would not had to go through this process. However I’m sure it was a good learning process for both of us.

David Wallace

David Wallace, co-founder and CEO of SearchRank, is a recognized expert in the industry of search and social media marketing. Since 1997, David has been involved in developing successful search engine and social media marketing campaigns for large and small businesses. Follow +David Wallace on Google + as well as Twitter.

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