What HP Has Learned From Blogging
Blogging has gone mainstream. It has reached a critical mass. Companies are starting to wake up to the mighty power of blogs and the heightened voice of the customer fueled by blogs. What HP has learned from blogging clearly validates this fact.
HP Commits A Blunder
Hewlett-Packard Company (HP) is a technology company that operates in more than 170 countries worldwide. It has also launched a blog program to further enable it to connect with customers and build beneficial long-term relationships. However, its blog program met a snag when one of its blogger, David Gee, head of worldwide marketing for HP’s management software business deleted a negative comment on his blog. It elicited a damaging backlash from the blogging community.
It all started when an HP customer posted a legitimate comment on David Gee’s blog about the not-so-good experience he had when he upgraded his media center personal computer. The comment was immediately erased and his HP passport (requirement to be able to leave comments) was revoked. Angered, he retorted by blogging about the incident. The tech blogging community, pretty tight and fast got wind of the news and a storm ensued. David Gee was taken to task and the comment was reinstated. He apologized and admitted that it was a humbling learning experience. He further reiterated that HP is making an all-out effort to maintain an honest and open dialogue with customers. They want to hear from the customers.
The incident has taught HP a valuable lesson in dealing with customer comments. Understanding that there are inherent risks involved in blogging, HP has developed a blogging policy and a set of guidelines for blogging responsibilities to mitigate these risks. Acknowledging that negative comments are inevitable, HP’s strategy is to politely respond further expounding the facts as the blogger sees them. Keeping the dialogue constructive and flowing forward instead of engaging in a useless and unfavorable debate will be standard policy.
Companies should realize that simply deleting critical comments can bring damaging repercussions if found out. For one, company credibility and reputation will suffer. Companies should think carefully how to handle negative or critical comments. Unlike an individual blogger, corporate bloggers are answerable to management, shareholders, fellow employees and most of all the customers.
Handling Negative Comments
Discussion and the ensuing commentaries are what makes blogging a different and exciting medium. Blogging, at its best, is a two way conversation. But getting negative or critical comments do happen in the blogosphere. When blogging publicly, offering opinions and views to the world, negative responses will occur. Some are just constructive criticisms but others can really be downright nasty. So, how does one deal with negative comments? Simply delete them?
Dealing with comments means identifying and handling inappropriate or off-topic comments. For a start, it helps to have a standard policy on comments and privacy. By allowing comments, readers should understand that the company will protect their privacy by not displaying or using their e-mail address, even if it might be required for making comments. General rules and guidelines on what will or will not be allowed on the corporate blog should be set. It is well-advised to have a Legal Policies page that summarizes all legal issues and stands displayed on the main site. This includes the Privacy Policies and Comment Policies. There are some corporate blogs that incite debates or attract controversy. It is wise to be clear on what the company will tolerate, say, name calling might not be allowed. The scope of topics, language, allegations, negative discourse, and arguments should all be clearly stated in the Comments Policy.
With a clear policy, it will be easier to handle a negative comment. If you (blogger) receive a negative comment, make sure you fully understand what is being said. It is easy to read something critical and hastily write a response that might not be as enlightening as it should be thereby causing more trouble. If the negative comment is on topic and calls for more discussion, provide the necessary information, do not delete it. Comments, good or bad, are good for business. Most businesses adhere to this adage. A negative comment gives you the opportunity to explain, persuade your readers and strengthen your stand about a certain issue. You will be surprised at the things you may discover about how readers perceive your products or services.
If you filter out negative comments, there is no true dialogue and thus no way to change the commenter’s mind about your product or service or his perception of your business as a whole. Use negative but legitimate comments as a medium to demonstrate how your company handles customer complaints or issues. Before responding, think long and hard. Consider you response carefully. Do take time to evaluate the best response that will benefit the customer and your company as well. Bear in mind that the purpose of your blog is to build and foster lasting relationships with your customers and to connect with potential customers as well. On the other hand, if a disparaging comment does not provide any help to the topic of the post, you can delete it.
You can get rid of comments you deem offensive. Offensive may mean different things to different people. To some, offensive may mean treating someone with irreverence or contempt while to others it may mean any comment that goes against their personal beliefs or blog content and purpose. Again, you decide.
If you feel the need to respond to a negative comment, respond kindly and show your willingness to understand. A negative comment can turn into something positive by making an effort to take in the point of view of the commenter.
Sometimes, you will get negative comments simply because you are wrong. Admit it and learn from it. You will earn the respect of your readers if you own up to your mistakes. You and your company’s credibility standing will even shoot up.
If you do not want negative comments to appear on your blog, you can always turn off the comments feature on your blog. The ball is in your hand.