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BW Businessworld

What Is Your Image Online?

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Till about two decades ago, customers did not have many outlets for their complaints. They could try and reach out to the customer service departments of companies. In an era before toll-free lines and customer service email IDs became ubiquitous, this was not easy. And because many companies operated in oligopolistic markets, few firms took customer complaints seriously. There was also the weekly grievance column in prominent newspapers. But because of space constraints, only a lucky few could hope to see their complaints appear in print. Finally, there was a forum. The Consumer Protection Act had been enacted in 1986 and consumer courts had started appearing by the late 80s. But not many knew how to register complaints before the consumer courts back then.
 
Today, the rise of the Internet, the growth of social media and the proliferation of customer experience sites have provided customers with numerous fora through which they can vent their ire. They can tweet about their grievances, post them on Facebook, or write reviews on sites such as MouthShut or TripAdvisor. There are also sites which carry reviews of the working environment of a firm.
 
Meanwhile, with increased competition, companies also have more incentive to take care of customer complaints. Over the past few years, online reputation management has become increasingly important.
 
ORM is still a fairly new area for many organisations. In our cover story this issue, senior associate editor Chitra Narayanan and contributing editor Mala Bhargava look at the issues involved, and the tool kits available.
 
While on the subject of reputation, the Comptroller and Auditor General of India’s (CAG) report on coal block allocations has further damaged the reputation of the UPA government.
 
My view is that the CAG’s calculations of presumptive gains to the tune of Rs 1.86 lakh crore to 57 companies which have been allotted coal blocks are based on flawed assumptions. But what is getting overlooked is that while the numbers touted by the CAG can be questioned, there are other important issues in the report which need to be addressed urgently.

Also, don’t miss Planning Commission deputy chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia’s views on the coal controversy, on page 26.

(This story was published in Businessworld Issue Dated 10-09-2012)