Years ago, before social media was even a glimmer in the eye of the most advanced techie, my school-age daughter asked me after a particularly bad consumer experience, “Mommy, is this one of those places we’re never coming back to?”
Back then, that was pretty much the only recourse – especially for some of the chain stores where complaining to the manager did not seem to make much of an impression.
Poor customer service has been – and probably always will be – part of the retail experience. People are fallible, after all. They make mistakes; they have bad days. But it’s becoming much more dangerous for businesses to screw up in this area. Social media has provided the sword for customers who, rightly or wrongly, feel they have been treated unfairly.
According to data reported in a Forbes article, “nearly 95% of customers share bad product experiences online; 45% share bad customer services experiences with others.” The results can be devastating, especially for a small business without the public relations staff or resources to fight back.
This trend is only getting stronger. BrightLocal’s Local Consumer Review Survey 2013 reported that 67% of consumers read fewer than six reviews before making up their mind about whether or not to patronize a local business; only 22% read more than ten.
Their analysis? “Consumers are forming opinions faster now than before. . . .This means that local businesses need to manage their online reputation even more closely than before.” You can access the full survey results here.
You may not be able to resolve every customer’s complaint right away, but it’s important to treat it seriously, and to treat the complaining customer with respect. In these situations, what your customers want, first and foremost, is to be listened to. They want to know they matter to you.
But what about the customer who never complains in person and goes directly to social media to post a complaint? That’s where the real work comes in. You should regularly monitor any sites that are likely to post reviews on your type of business. It’s time consuming, but essential, to search for – and promptly respond to – complaints and ask for an opportunity to resolve the issue. It’s also a good idea to thank people who give you a positive review.
Whether you respond online or off line, you may want to do some internal research before you respond to get some background on what could have gone wrong. Just keep in mind that a positive experience in resolving a complaint can often turn a complaining customer into a dedicated customer, and there’s a good chance their next post will be a rave review.
(Search tip: Many customers will use your company’s hashtag to “tag” their post. If your business is called Mary’s Pet Place, for instance, your hashtag is #maryspetplace. You can search for the hashtag to see what comes up.)
Posted by Margot Dimond