Before the days of social media, a person’s criticisms about a company were relatively contained within their own family and small circle of friends, but now, through sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Google+, one comment can spread like wildfire through untold numbers of people. Wouldn’t you much rather have folks sharing good information about your business than bad?
Fortunately, the best way to influence these conversations is through something every business should understand — customer service. Simply take your same attentive, hands-on strategies and apply them to an online platform. Here’s how:
Acknowledge Your Mistakes
No person or business is perfect, so your company is bound to make mistakes he re and there. Consumers respect businesses that aren’t afraid to say, “oops… we messed up,” and are much more sympathetic if you acknowledge your errors openly instead of denying them or making excuses.
Don’t be afraid to post a message on your Facebook page explaining how you screwed up and what you plan to do about it. If your mistake only affected one person, message them directly in a more personal, less public forum. Taking such an upfront approach will make you seem more real and less like an emotionally-detached company.
Monitor Review Sites
Online review sites are often consumers’ first stop when they are trying to make a decision about a business. Yelp! is an especially popular site, and now that Zagat is incorporated into Google+ Local, it is bound to start getting even more attention.
Before you do anything else, make sure you have “claimed” your business on these sites and your listing is filled out accurately and entirely.
The next thing to be aware of is people tend to write online reviews when they are feeling the most passionate (good or bad), and anyone can post a review on these sites. This means user comments have a tendency to fit into one extreme or the other — lavish praise or unbridled complaints. Of course, you can reduce much of the negative comments by always offering consistent, quality service and products, but as the saying goes, “you can’t please all the people all the time.”
So, when a reviewer posts a negative complaint on Yelp!, Zagat, or some other site, make an effort to remedy the situation. Perhaps you could offer them a freebie, a coupon, or simply say you’re sorry. Remember, users can always go back and change their review, so there’s always hope of repairing the damage.
Monitor Your Social Accounts
Whether by smartphone, tablet, or computer, it seems most people are always within arm’s reach of internet access. So, when they have a negative experience with a business, there’s nothing stopping them from getting online and blasting their rage on social networks. If your business has a Facebook, Google+, or Twitter account, they may send a message to you directly, which, in fact, is a good thing, because it gives you a chance to take action and possibly repair the relationship.
However, it’s important to respond in a timely matter. Otherwise, the disgruntled individual will think you don’t care, have further time to stew, and will probably voice their complaints to more people.
Your best strategy is to check your social accounts at least once a day to respond to any grievances and to answer general questions. Also, people may not message you specifically or post a comment on your page, so always keep an eye out for any mention of your name throughout the social spheres. Taking such proactive measures will show customers you are listening and you care.
Don’t Overextend Yourself Socially
Of course, you have to participate in social networks to monitor them, but trying to juggle too many at once can actually cause your customer service to suffer. Keeping up with all these sites can spread your time too thin and make it nearly impossible to adequately respond to your follower’s questions and comments. Undoubtedly, you will start neglecting your fans on one or more sites and they will become disenchanted with your business.
If you’re handling your own social media efforts, try focusing on only one or two networks, but be careful, because even just two can monopolize a lot of your time. A better idea, if you’re able, is to hire a social media manager who can devote all his/her time to this important area.
Whether good or bad, reviews offer a ton of insight into how consumers perceive your business and they may even make you aware of a widespread problem. On the other hand, they can also let you know what you’re doing right and what customers really like about your products and services — either way, this is information you want to know.
So, encourage your fans and followers to make comments by offering incentives like discounts, freebies, and contests for those who take the time. Just making it known you’re interested tells people you are concerned about customer service and increases your chances of getting a positive review.
Today, through the power of words and social media, individuals have more sway than ever in terms of influencing public opinion about your business. The only way to have some control over what’s said is by fighting fire with fire, so to speak, by actively communicating with your customers through these social channels.