Today, I was sitting at my desk when I received a phone call from a “Blocked” number during my lunch break. Reluctantly, I answered it.

“May I please speak with Patricia Ryan?” a voice asked me.

“May I ask who’s calling?” I responded, politely.

“Yes, this is Karen. I’m a customer care specialist representing PetSmart.com.”

Immediately, I knew where this conversation was going. Before work this morning, I received an email from them asking me to fill out a survey about my experience with a recent order that I placed through their website. One of the items in my order was wrong (I wanted the grey Martha Stewart dog toy box, not the blue one), so I decided to take the survey and give my honest feedback. Less than 5 hours later, Karen was calling me to rectify the situation.

“We follow up with customers who have negative experiences with PetSmart.com to avoid nasty online reviews by unhappy people,” she told me.

Then it clicked – this is PetSmart’s proactive approach to managing their online reputation. Obviously, they’re aware of the potentially damaging effects that negative ratings and reviews can have on their brand and ultimately their bottom line. Rather than have to react to them after they’re already published, their strategy is to prevent “nasty online reviews” from happening in the first place. For me, it was effective – I hung up the phone a satisfied customer and they don’t have to worry about me damaging their reputation on the Internet.

All businesses – no matter how big or small, online-based or not – should have an online reputation management plan in place. A combination of being proactive like PetSmart, combating negative reviews, monitoring social engagement (for more on how your business can use social media to constructively engage with customers, read this post on Twitter & Customer Service), and positioning your company in a positive light is the most effective way to manage a brand.

Can you think of any examples of proactive or reactive reputation management strategies that were successful? Share them with me at pryan[at]webimax.com.