Sunday, July 31, 2011

Improving Customer Relationships by Responding to Negative Feedback

Negative feedback is inevitable, no matter how strong your brand and products are. Now, with the advent of social media, companies are bombarded with complaints through Facebook and Twitter. What's different about the social media complaints is that the customer's comment and your interactions with them is public. Anyone in the world can see the professionalism, sympathy, and service mindset that you demonstrate.

However, few brands take advantage of this powerful tool to show that you care about your customers. Most companies refuse to make a tiny investment of time to respond to these comments and improve customers' experiences exponentially.

This is your opportunity to set yourself apart. Ask select employees and even executives to take 15 minutes every day to log onto Twitter or Facebook, to respond to feedback and solve others' problems. Interns and co-ops who have shown a thorough understanding of your brand, can complete this simple task as well. Here are the steps that responses should follow:

1. Apologize and sympathize

Customers are usually decidedly furious when things go wrong in their experience with your company. Calm them down and let them know that you understand and care.

2. Ask how you can fix the problem

Ask for all the specific details you will need to fix the problem. Try to find these out all at once, rather than continuously going back to ask for more details.

3. Demonstrate a sense of urgency

The worst mistake in customer service is making the customer feel like you're nonchalant about their issue. Act quickly and give them updates on your progress if solving their problem will take more than 3 days. Go to every extreme to ensure that they are satisfied.

4. Offer them a gift to apologize for the inconvenience

This should be done whether the problem is solved or not. The gift can be a coupon, store credit, or a specific item.

5. Thank them for the complaint

Appreciate the fact that they helped you improve your product, by pointing out a flaw.

In addition, it is important to differentiate between legitimate negative feedback and what I like to call "hater" comments (here is a post on how to distinguish the difference). Respond only to legitimate complaints.

All in all, when you respond to negative feedback, customers are taken aback by how much you care- after all, they've likely never had a good experience with customer service, especially through social media. Nike+ responds to all tweets that "mention" them. They congratulate me when I tweet about my runs and when my sensor stopped working, they tried to help. Even though they weren't able to fix it, I was impressed enough with their dedication to me, that I will be a loyal customer for years to come. That means thousands in revenues for them, from a few simple tweets.

Social media- just do it.

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