Everyone goes into business with the best intensions in mind. There isn't a person with an ounce of integrity, who launches a new business deliberately intending to disappoint his or her customers. Nor, can any sane business person deny that there will be times when things get a bit out of hand resulting in less than stellar consumer reviews for them and their business. No matter how hard we try to please everyone; we should still plan on having the kind of days that our “mama(s) said would be like this.”
Years ago, when bad things accidentally happened to good customers the stakes were not as high for business operators. Back then it was much easier to isolate the problem, calm the customer down and try to make things right before they went ballistic and started a consumer affairs crusade. In those days, an irate customer would most likely start the ball rolling by filing a complaint with the Better Business Bureau or the local Office of Community Affairs. While certainly not a desirable business outcome, the situation was more easily control because the complaint escalation process moved much slower than it does, today The slower pace allowed for more of a cooling off period; leaving more time for negotiations and settlement of issues long before the entire world was informed of the complaint via the Internet.
With the Internet at their fingertips and with dozens of consumer complaint websites available, an angry customer now has the ability to pour out his liver only moments after he or she feels that they were somehow inconvenienced and ultimately disappointed by a business. Speed and convenience are certainly not a businessman’s ally when a customer can post during his or her initial temper tantrum. It’s quick, simple and deadly for the offending business.
This is why any new business operator and his staff should heed this warning and give some thought to the worse case scenarios of customer relations and the proper way to conduct oneself when dealing with unhappy consumers. Blowing an irate customer off was never really an option before. With the Internet at their disposal, there is no doubt that they will have the last word and, perhaps, the last laugh.
I know of several cases in which exasperated customers have recorded and broadcast (online) service representative's nasty reluctance to provide adequate service. Some years ago, Comcast Cable let go of a technician, who was videotaped (by the customer) fast asleep on their living room couch. The clip went viral on Youtube, in fact.
"Some people believe that publicly flogging a company or business person on the Web is the best way to get their attention and change their negative behaviors," said Rich Abernathy, a local consumer advocate. "People are going to be very sensitive to it and –hopefully – will take notice."
"I think the inherent nature of the Internet brings out the inner complainer in us," said Ray Collier, another local advocate I recently spoke with,
Here is some helpful advice to avoid viral customer complaints:
- An Apology Often Calms a Dissatisfied Customer.
Try saying the following – and believing it:
“I am very sorry for this situation, Mrs. Jones. We both want to get this matter resolved quickly. Let me see what I can do to work this out in a satisfactory way.”
- The Customer Must Always Know That You Care. Send the customer a brief but heartfelt apology along with something special to acknowledge their patience and understanding.
- Offer the Irate Customer Choices. If you love your business, sometimes you have to let a customer – go to a competitor. If this is a resolution that helps them move on without further hostility towards you and your business, make it happen.
- NEVER ARGUE. It doesn’t matter what you think about an angry customer or even the validity of their complaint. Just explain to them what you’re going to do to set things straight. Fix the problem as soon as possible and courteously. Things will only get better when there is calm and rational thinking in progress.
Not all customer complaining takes place in the confines of your store (if you even have a brick and mortar business), so you may not even know of their existence unless you stumble upon them, accidentally. It very important to monitor the Web and hear what others are saying about you and your business. Fortunately, there are some very good tools available to use. Most are free. Here is what is minimally suggested.
· Set up individual Google Alerts for yourself, your business and your products. These will come to you daily and you will quickly be able to determine, what if anything needs to be responded to. Remember, to pick your battles carefully. Count to ten before deciding whether or not to respond to what you are reading and – if you decide to respond – then, how?
· Use Google Blogsearch and/or Technorati to see what people are saying about you, your company and its products and services.
· Set up Twitter Search to Monitor what others may be Tweeting about you on Twitter.
Good customer service is so important and, ironically, there is so little of it encountered these days. What used to be a given can, today, be considered an edge – if your customer service excels and your customers - who may not always agree with you – at least, realize that you care and were courteous to them at all times. If you can actually satisfy them and give them what they want – even better.
Author, Marc LeVine is the Director of Social Media for RiaEnjolie, Inc., a web page design company that offers professional looking and affordable websites for small businesses of all types. Follow them on Twitter @RiaEnjolie and on Facebook. You can Win a Free Website.
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