Have you ever witnessed a disgruntled customer? If you have, you may have caught yourself listening to the angry patron’s complaints and then judging whether you felt the merchant’s reaction compensated for the incident.
Your own mood about the business overall may even change based on what you gauge to be a dire injustice toward a fellow consumer. Or, perhaps, the merchant tried his or her best to rectify the situation, and your allegiance solidified to them.
These days, poor customer service isn’t limited to businesses that we frequent in person. The virtual world is filled with interactions between consumers and businesses, and not all of these are pleasant.
According to a 2012 study by RightNow Technologies, more than a quarter of consumers have experienced poor customer service and then posted a negative comment on a social networking site like Facebook or Twitter.
Alarmingly, a whopping 79 percent of consumers who shared these rants online had their complaints ignored. Conversely, of the 21 percent who did get responses to their grievances, more than half had positive reactions and 22 percent went on to post a positive comment about the organization.
Even more startling, according to Ruby Newell-Legner’s book, Understanding Customers, a typical business hears from only 4 percent of its unsatisfied customers.
Of this hefty unsatisfied lot of customers, 91 percent will never return to give the business a second chance to right the wrong.
This is extremely bad news for the bottom line of any business since, on average, loyal customers are worth up to 10 times as much as their initial purchase at the same store, according to White House Office of Consumer Affairs.
Businesses don’t ignore screaming customers in person, so why are they missing out on building solid relationships with their own customer base by ignoring virtual complaints?
By responding promptly and reasonably, the rewards are improved brand image, real consumer feedback and loyalty. By paying close attention to the “social chatter” on the Web, your business could meet your customers’ needs more quickly and efficiently, thereby boosting sales.
Social media offers businesses a multitude of ways for your company to improve your customer service experiences.
Google Alert is a free service that notifies by email whenever the name or business name (or whatever word or phrase you input) is found on the Internet. Software services like HootSuite, PlanYourPost and Sendible allow users to setup searches and monitor terms.
Twitter allows you to converse through DM (Direct Message) and removes the conversation stream from public eyes, while affording the opportunity to diffuse problems in a more intimate setting.
YouTube can be used to enhance services to the public. “Do It Yourself” (DIY) projects, instructional and “How To” videos are the new, virtual FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions sheets) and each act to empower the consumer.
Global companies like Coca-Cola, Apple and Home Depot actively participate in “social listening” to prevent costly mishaps and monitor the same brand image they’ve spent millions to create.
Wild Adventures, a Herschend Family Entertainment owned Theme Park in Valdosta, selects Season Pass Holding Moms who post on the company’s Facebook page to create groups that discuss problems, make suggestions, act as a focus group and advise the HFE Board of Directors on a variety of topics.
Bethany Hospice LLC, a south Georgia-based business, uses Facebook to create grief counseling groups that their patients and families may voluntarily join, creating a virtual community of support without violating HIPAA regulations.
Customers frequently make contact and exchange ideas with, suggest, ask questions and learn more about products and services directly with companies these days.
Social media affords your company the chance to pacify unhappy customers, and it gives your company the edge in product development, marketing, branding and sales just by serving your customers better.
If your company isn’t utilizing these tools to enhance your customer service, serve your public and protect your image, maybe it’s time to contact your local Small Business Development Center for assistance through one on one consulting and classroom training.
Ruby Riesinger is the area director of the Valdosta office of the Georgia SBDC Network and she may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.