Not long ago, I was contacted by a franchise business that wanted me to speak to its franchisees about customer service. Given that I am a small business speaker and that speaking to franchisees about various small business success strategies is something I do quite a bit, this was right up my alley.
Or so I thought.
When I dug in and asked the VP why he chose “customer service” as a topic for my speech, he informed me that there was a rash of online complaints about the franchise and that they were having a difficult time with their franchisees. It seemed that when people would Google the franchise, they would find the complaints straight away, and of course then stay away.
While I was happy for the opportunity to speak to this small business audience, I also explained to the VP that his issues seemed to be a lot more significant than could be fixed in a single speech to franchisees. What I recommended was that he confront the negative posts issue head on, create a Google alert, jump onto Twitter, and handle every complaint in real time. He disagreed. His thinking was that ignoring the complaints was better since, as he said, “responding to them only serves to highlight them more.”
The speech to the franchisees went great, but sadly, the VP did not take my other piece of advice. He continues to ignore all of the negative things being said about his business.
Want to read more about dealing with online complaints? Check these out:
But today I have new ammunition.
A recent Harris survey conducted for RightNow concludes that the best way to handle online complaints is to use social media to nip them in the bud. The survey looked at customers who posted negative feedback or reviews of a business on social networks over the holiday season. The survey results were amazing. The first thing one notices is that 32 percent of the negative reviewers were left alone; indeed, only 68 percent of the negative reviewers received any response at all from the company in question. What are those 32 percent thinking?
But look what happens with the 68 percent:
- Of those that were contacted online by the company in question about their complaint, 18 percent were so happy with the follow-up that they were converted into regular customers and bought more from the retailer
- 33 percent went on to post a positive review of the business and
- 34 percent went so far as to delete their original, damaging post
How great is that? Given that reviews live forever online, that last fact is no small thing.
So the lesson is clear: Not only can not responding to negative social media posts damage your business, but more importantly, the opposite is also true. Responding to such posts vastly increases your chances of retaining that customer and even eliminating that negative review.
The actual process of engaging in, and reversing, these negative social media posts is surprisingly easy. It’s simply a matter of staying current on what is being said about you and then jumping into the thread when you see a problem arise. You stay current by:
- Creating the aforementioned Google alert, or
- Using a service like Technorati, Trackle, SocialMention, or
- Search Twitter daily
Then, once you discover a problem, it’s simply a matter of using some good, old-fashioned customer service to resolve it and make the customer happy.
Does this sort of social media intervention work? Well, my paper, USA TODAY reports that more than half of all Fortune 100 companies now use social media to solve customer complaints. Why? Because they see that companies that respond to online criticism quickly and strongly get results. So yes, it works. It can even work for my franchise client. And it definitely can work for you, too.