Power to the Consumer – dealing with Social Media and Public Complaints

So they got you…one of your customers had a bad experience and now they are online telling the world about it.

In fact, they are so upset that they started a website or blog up and are actively denouncing your company. You went out and did a Google search and they are popping up on the same page as your website.

There’s your company and then right below it, bam. It’s that customer…the one that is really, really mad.

Well, how do you fix it so this guy isn’t second on the list behind your good name?

Unfortunately, most of the business people I talk to think that the customer is in the wrong. That it isn’t their fault and that they did the right thing. But it isn’t really about right or wrong when it comes to the damage a customer can cause to your online presence.

It’s about turning that customer into someone who loves you no matter the initial cost.

That’s crazy talk. No, not for a small business or even a large one.

I believe all you have is customer service. Today almost anyone can do what you do for your customers. The biggest difference between you and your competitors is how you treat them before, during and after they do business with you.

Everyone knows it’s 5x, 7x, 10x more expensive to get a new customer than it is to keep an old one.

And you believe that then you’ll do what it is to keep that customer happy no matter how insane you may think they are. But believe me, they aren’t insane in their own head. Make it right.

I’ll give you two examples that happened to me this weekend. One was at a sushi restaurant. I won’t mention the name because I didn’t feel that slighted but my wife sure did.

We had never been there before and had a coupon from a mailer. We walk in and there was no hostess. We waited and waited and waited. At least three or four minutes.

A large crowd of five or six came in behind us. They passed us, went to the bar. The hostess then came out from around the bar, greeted those people then came up to the hostess stand, grabbed some menus, gave us an apologizing look and said, “I’ll be right with you.”

She sat those people and then came back to us.

She greeted us. My wife said, “Did you know those people? Do they own the restaurant?”

The young girl said no. My wife said, “We were here before them. Why did they get seated before us?”

She didn’t have an answer. My wife likes things to be fair. This tainted the entire experience. We left and the people behind us who had just walked in left as well. So the very young hostess (who is your first impression for a new restaurant) just cost the owner $100 from us and probably $200 from the four top behind us.

Plus we’ll never go back. You only get one chance with my wife.

The next place we went to was brand new. A burger place with brew. I was excited. We walked in to a mop bucket unattended next to the front door. Yeah, we didn’t even look at the menu.

Two small businesses. Lost revenue. And we’ll never go back. And my wife who is at WOM machine will be very happy to pass her complaints along any time anyone mentions those two new restaurants.

So the fact that you have a customer that is unhappy and willing to talk about it online is both a very good thing and a very dangerous thing. Good because at least they are talking in an environment where you could deal with it. Like those restaurants will probably never know that my wife is hurting their business.

But onine is more dangerous than you can imagine because there are plenty places to talk (social media) outside of your site – especially if your site doesn’t even allow for that type of interaction. You know because you don’t want people talking bad about you on your site.

Here’s what one of our creative directors said about people talking negatively on your company’s site. Leigh Marino (awesome smart creative) likened those upset customers to her new puppy. This puppy liked to dig. Every time they were outside in the yard, the puppy tore up her flowers and her garden. After a couple of times at this, Leigh decided to make a space in the yard for the puppy to go to town on. A spot to rip her yard to shreds. Now the puppy was happy because he was going to rip something to shreds anyway and Leigh was happy because it wasn’t her flowers.

The idea behind this is that you are not going to make every customer completely happy. But when they do have a complaint, let them come to you and tell you about it. Let it be on your website for others to see. Then do what you can to contact this customer and make them happy. When you finally do, they will retract or if they don’t, you can let others see how you responded to the complaint and how you made amends.

But if you don’t do anything and you let that person have a voice out there on the internet without any response, the damage can be desvastating to a business.

Consumers are starting to understand this more and more. They know that their opinion of you counts more than just who they can reach in their small network of face to face friends. They can reach every single one of your customers searching for you on the net if they are smart enough about it.

Here’s some places they can do it.

If it were me, I would start a free blog on blogger or wordpress to talk about what happened. I would use a URL that had their name in it. I would use the company’s name over and over to make sure the keywords were there. I would link my blog to all the sites above and anything else I could find. I would contact the local media and pitch my story to them. This stuff would probably take me a week but I’ll bet you I’d be showing up really close to their direct searches in Google. Heck, I might even buy a few adwords to make sure I did.

Sending me a cease and desist or taking me to court would be the wrong thing to do here. That would cause me to flame even louder on the net. Then my fellow bloggers would get wind of “the man” coming down on someone who is just trying to right a wrong. Then it would spread like wild fire.

Hopefully, you are seeing my point about how effective this type of consumer complaint can be and how you should be prepared to deal with it. I’m going to say it again. Make it right. And make sure everyone they talked to knows you made it right.

Next time, I’m going to write about how you can get that consumer complaint website off certain search results for your company. It takes some time and some effort but you can do it.