When Zappos.com messed up our summer intern Alex’s cleat order a few days before his big tournament, he was seething. Rather than punch his way through a voicemail tree, he Tweeted his frustration. Passive-aggressive customer, 21st Century style? Not at all. And by understanding the power of social media, Zappos was all over it. Publicly.
“Zappos saw my tweet, checked my order status and fixed everything!” he said, skipping through the office. “I’ll have my new cleats tomorrow!” He then Tweeted again—this time about his positive experience.
Home run for the Zappos customer service team.
When it comes to customer feedback, you can run, but you can no longer hide. Commentary about your business—even negative feedback—can be your best friend if you play it right. Or it can be your worst enemy if you put your head in the sand.
The Power Has Shifted
Customers today have loud voices—and many Internet-friendly soapboxes on which to stand. And they expect response. Product and service reviews are nothing new, but what is new is the power shift–away from a small handful of media elite (writers, editors, critics, power bloggers) to the masses.
People love having a voice. If you are not willing to let the dialogue flow and hear a bit of negative feedback, you are simply not ready to embrace the social media revolution—and you run a real risk of becoming less relevant.So listen. Monitor. Embrace negative feedback as a way to show stellar customer service. Amazon.com was a very early adopter of letting customers’ opinions—both positive and negative—be heard. Consumers understand that not every product will fit everyone’s needs or expectations. If favorable reviews outweigh negative ones, people tend to chock it up to a bad experience by a single individual and not a reflection of what can be expected. And if negative reviews outweigh the positive—well, then, that’s powerful feedback you can use to improve your product or service.
Hear No Evil, Make No Progress
A very reputable bed and breakfast in our area had a conniption fit when we suggested putting links to Yelp.com reviews on their website so others could see what was being said about the establishment. The reason—the owner was freaked out by a few negative reviews and didn’t want anyone seeing them.
But the fact is, people were already seeing it. Review sites tend to be very well-indexed by search engines. Turns out this B&B had about three dozen reviews on Yelp already, and all but two were extremely positive.
Like every other aspect of marketing, social-based customer service requires a strategy. Don’t go into it half blind. Set internal expectations, assign tasks and make someone accountable. Have a plan in place to let customers know where they can find you, and then encourage their feedback.
If you believe in your product or service, if you back it and deliver on your promise, if you embrace feedback and address the negative, you are doing something right. If you can fix it, do so. Publicly. Your company’s image and reputation will soar much higher than if you try (in vain) to ignore it. The power has shifted to your customers. A positive or negative experience by one person can spread to tens of thousands in seconds.
It’s the Economics
Think you can’t afford to integrate social media into your customer service strategy? You can’t afford not to. In the not too distant past, if you wanted customer feedback you had to hire an outside marketing research firm to conduct costly, time-consuming focus groups.
Now your focus groups are your fans and followers. The response is real-time. And the cost is limited to the time of the employee tasked with monitoring it. Dozens of social media monitoring tools are available to aggregate posts and replies. Apps like Hootsuite and Tweetdeck can put this information at your fingertips.
Social media as a customer service tool can build real relationships with customers in a way that was impossible even five years ago. And when your customers know their opinions are valued, it’s a small step to convert them into evangelists for your brand. (A botched shipment of cleats turned our intern Alex into a Zappos fanatic.) Evangelists are the best investment in marketing you can make—real customers telling prospects about the awesomeness of your product or service.
Talk about the power of leverage. I had a great customers experience at Men’s Warehouse the other day. So I Tweeted about it. Men’s Warehouse was listening. They responded to my praise within two hours by thanking me for being a loyal customer—and then gave me a little something extra for evangelizing their brand. I went back to the store and showed my sales associate the exchange on my Blackberry. He was thrilled—and guess what? That great customer service was kicked up an even higher notch. Think I won’t evangelize them so more?
Social Media Requires Social Strategy
Like every other aspect of marketing, social-based customer service requires a strategy. Don’t go into it half blind. Set internal expectations, assign tasks and make someone accountable. Have a plan in place to let customers know where they can find you, and then encourage their feedback. Empower your customer service reps. Let them know exactly what kind of leeway they have to resolve problems. Respond, respond, respond. Because the worst thing you can do when encouraging customers to provide feedback is to stick your head in the sand and remain silent.
Satisfied customers like Alex know the conclusion to the story—not only did Zappos listen and resolve the issue, they gave him free membership to their customer club—a $50 value. He’s now a customer for life, literally and figuratively. This wasn’t by accident. They decided—as part of a strategic plan—to deploy a technologically smart and cost-effective way of letting customers know they are listening.