Maintaining customer loyalty and building a reputation for service with Internet users is dependant on being able to interact with people. Once having attracted a customer (or enquirer), many companies just fail to follow up. The Internet.com (an on-line publication) report of a study by Rubic Inc reported that 40% of e-mail questions to company sites were left un-answered. Companies loose customers because they do not respond.
A further study by Neteffect shows that inability to respond actively makes consumers abandon purchases. Its like two thirds out of hundreds of people being half way round a supermarket with a trolley full of shopping, then abandoning their purchases in mid aisle.
Imagine if this were to happen in a real supermarket. Not only would it be commercially silly, it would have a direct impact on the reputation of the company. Which supermarket CEO would be allowed to survive such a scandal? How soon before investors ask why customers abandon on-line shopping trolleys and never bother to go to the check-out. Reputation managers must ask the question about an ability to follow up.
Which reminds me, e-mails to Government Ministers get 'lost in the post'. I can't quite imagine John Prescott saying 'let them eat cakes' but the government does not seem to be in-touch with Internet reality. Its sites are slow, boring and difficult to navigate and never answer e-mails. What do they want? Letters!
Creating and re-creating the value of intellectual properties and brands in a shape and form that is acceptable to the Internet Society must now be a major issue for all company managers. Abandonment of a site where the visitor has committed to be
interactive (even collect products to buy), is seriously damaging to reputation.
It leaves visitors frustrated and they act out of character and criticise the company (or government in my case).
Dynamic Internet reputation management in these fast moving media, is rapidly becoming significant. Up to now, companies have been busy getting their Web sites up. Now they have to be able to respond to the interest they create. In addition, as
people use interactive Internet, the response to advertising and to consumer enquiries has to improve, be swift, and customer focused. If not consumers will go away and will be less inclined to come back in the future. In some cases they will become
consumer activists in newsgroups and chat sites.