Today, a guest post I wrote for the Wichita Business Journal was published. In it, I highlight an action plan for responding to social media complaints. I hope that if you’ve ever had a bad experience with Davis-Moore, that you let me know about it. At Davis-Moore, service is our number one concern and I would love the opportunity to make a bad experience right for you.
Here’s the full text of the post:
The old saying of, “You can run, but you cannot hide” has never been more true than when looking at today’s world of social media. In the good old days, if a customer had a complaint toward a company, they would write a letter, fill out customer comment cards or verbally complain — either in person or on the telephone. The complaint stayed relatively tucked away and private; it was between the company and that individual. If you still have that mentality and way of thinking in TODAY’S social media crazed world, I fear you and your company will be left in the dust.
I spend many hours every week on the Internet for work, However I also use the Internet as my No. 1 source for seeking out information — mostly consumer reviews on products that I am looking to purchase — and I am truly dumbfounded at how many companies are doing nothing about negative reviews about or complaints toward their companies. I look at all of the advertising dollars being spent to promote these companies and their products, and then look at the review sites and see hundreds of complaints and not a single response from the company! Not a “Thank you for letting us know” or even a “We’re sorry to hear of your bad experience, please call us” … nothing! Think of it this way: Not responding online is no different than a customer coming in to complain in person and getting zero verbal response — just a deer-in-the-headlight stare. How would that go down? Think about it as the business owner, then flip it and be the consumer. The picture is not pretty.
Call me old-fashioned, but my parents taught me a long time ago to “do unto others as you want done unto you.” You would certainly expect as a consumer that ,if you were unhappy with a company or product, you would be able to get them to respond or engage with you, no matter what outlet you used to let them know of your dissatisfaction. Smartphones, Twitter, Facebook and an abundance of other review and social media sites have simply made it easier for consumers to express their complaints. It allows them to blow off steam, vent and let others know how unhappy they are as well. These viral complaints can be very costly, whether the complaint is warranted or not. They are complaining because they feel that you, the business, has failed them in some way.
Businesses need to put a plan of action in place to address these complaints. Here is a very basic list of tips to get started and be consistent in your plan:
Be aware. Sign up for Google alerts! Anytime your company name is mentioned anywhere online, you will get an alert. You can have these alerts sent to your cell phone so no matter what time it is or where you are, you get the notification.
Make is easy for a customer to complain. Again, you cannot hide from customer complaints (no matter how hard you try). Put a contact name, phone number and email address on your website so that it’s easy for customers to get a hold of you or someone else who can courteously respond to their issue.
Train your customer service representatives. Hard truth: These people will truly make or break your business. Invest the time, money and energy into training them.
Respond immediately, every time. Your best form of damage control is in responding immediately. Don’t avoid it; don’t run away from it. It is not going to go away. Face it head on and dive in.
Listen, listen and listen some more. When you get in touch with the customer, simply listen. Often, all they want is to be heard. Miscommunication plays a major role in why that customer is so upset to begin with. Do not be defensive or combative; just listen. Patience is the key.
Keep emotion out of it. Whether you agree or disagree with what the customer complaint is, as a professional you have to keep your emotions in check. Your job is to solve the problem, to triage the situation and to figure out quickly and effectively how to rectify it.
Apologize. The words “I’m sorry” go a very long way. You are not necessarily admitting fault here. You are conveying to the customer that you are sorry to hear that they are unhappy with your company and assuring them that YOU are there to listen and to help.
Follow through. If you assure a customer that you are going to help them, you have to mean it. It does you absolutely no good to tell a customer something if you have no intention to follow through. Worse, the damage done will amplify if you overpromise and underdeliver, so be sure whatever resolution you come up with, you have the plan to back it up.
Unfortunately, there is no sure way to prevent unhappy customers. They have been and will always be a part of business. The Internet has given free speech a whole new meaning, and now more than ever we have to be ready to engage with our customer. Negative reviews give you a growth opportunity to become better and have some insight and understanding in to what your customers expect of you. Always remember: The customer’s perception is your reality!
Post was originally published by The Wichita Business Journal.