One of the most important things any business can do is listen to feedback from its customers and partners and put it to good use.
One of the worst is to assume that poor service or unfair dealings will go unnoticed.
Over the last week, I have seen a number of communications, sent by others, where social media platforms from email, e-newsletters, blogs, and Twitter have been used to point out serious breakdowns in service relationships.
It used to be that if a customer or business partner was unhappy, you might get an earful. Or at the worst – you loose the relationship and they tell ALL their friends about it. But in today’s new age of communications – it goes well beyond that.
Service failures can become public knowledge VERY quickly as evidenced by two posts that I saw within 30 minutes of each other one evening on twitter.
2576 followers on Twitter
5387 followers on Twitter
In other cases, entire sites or profiles are dedicated to voicing customer displeasure:
9440 followers on Twitter
4123 followers on Twitter
(Note – the comments shown here are for illustration purposes and come from publicly available Twitter streams, websites or blogs. CorePurpose has not researched the associated claims or contacted the companies listed to offer an opportunity for a rebuttal.)
I’m not taking sides in any of these disputes – that’s not the point.
The point is that in today’s social media world, dissatisfied customers have a forum to air their displeasure quickly and to a larger audience than ever before.
But it’s not just social media platforms. People are using a wide variety of electronic mediums to make their opinions known. And in some cases it is getting totally out of control…
One example, I watched evolve this week was a dispute between a local businessman – who is fairly well known in our community, and his former business partners/service providers.
The businessman posted a piece on his blog/email newsletter on Sunday with some pretty scathing remarks about the breakdown of his relationship with several of his former collaborators. (The post did not name names, but anyone who had watched his business evolve could figure out who they were.)
Then on Tuesday, I received an email from one of the businessman’s service providers containing the other side of the story.
The message was making a case defending the service provider’s actions and reputation. It included allegations of unfair dealings, a bounced check, unpaid bills, and worse on the part of the businessman.
In this case the service provider was an electronic marketing company. I am assuming that his message went out to the businessman’s entire contact database for the following reasons: 1) I did not know the sender but I did know the businessman and was in his database, and 2) many others in our community, who I assume were in the same database, received the same email. I know this because FIVE more of my friend forwarded the email to me within minutes of my receiving it directly. AND now there is a new blog up – cautioning people not to do business with the businessman and actively soliciting other stories of how the businessman is not a good person to partner with.
It’s a sad situation all the way around. No one will win this particular fight. They both are going to come out with black eyes.
What can we learn from this?
Unless your company is perfect, and I have yet to find one yet that is, sooner or later someone will be unhappy with your service. Here are a few tips to keep in mind.
1. The best defense is a good offense. Continually review and update your service delivery processes to avoid service failures in the first place.
2. When a service failure occurs – FIX IT. Respond promptly, courteously, and try a little empathy for the customer’s position. In these cases, if you show flexibility and a willingness to solve a problem – you can turn things around. Lack of flexibility – as in the ZaneSafrit/ @directTV example – just makes matters worse.
3. Know who is talking about you! Today’s new media offers lots of tools so you can scan the landscape and hear what is being said. At minimum have a Google keyword search set up that flags you when your company name pops up automatically. You can also use tools like SocialOomph to do the same thing on Twitter. – Hopefully you can then catch a mention like the one in the Hardaway/Cox example if you are paying attention.
4. And as to putting up your dukes to start swinging in cyberspace – Please don’t! Most of us do not want to be subjected to that. All though in the the long run, the lawyers may benefit when the fight escalates to the next level – and they very often do!
Yes, there are two sides to every story.
Unfortunately the negative ones tend to travel a lot faster than the positive ones. So take a tip from me and learn how to respond to feedback in this new media age.
You’ll be glad you did.
Thanks for stopping by. Stay Tuned…