Social media and customer complaints: How do you deal with it?

The other night I was out with friends enjoying a beer when I found myself being introduced to a stranger. This is not unusual when you’re out in a crowded bar enjoying drinks with a few friends.

However, he and I started talking about what it is we do. He works for some kind of financial firm. When I mentioned that I work in “Social Media Consulting”, the conversation really began flowing.

He seemed to have a love/hate affair with social media. They use it for his business. While he did not seem to be the one actively doing the social media himself, he obviously was seeing what was being said.

He understood that he “should” be doing social media, but only from the standpoint that it was a “new fangled thing”.

“How do you handle negative feedback?” He asked me genuinely wanting some kind of cure-all to stop his clients or former clients from complaining.

My answer was not what he wanted to hear.

“Thats great that you’re getting feedback from your customers. Dealing with it depends on the complaint.  Is any of it constructive? Are you using it to help correct any problem areas?”

He confessed that the complaints were genuine and known problems within the company.

But rather than change his company practices to get a better customer experience, he wanted a simple method to just stop the complaints.

Unfortunately people don’t work that way, and business doesn’t work that way.

If you’re not giving people what they want, or at least managing their expectations of doing business with you (for example: don’t promise quick service if you know its going to take weeks), then your business isn’t going to last long.

Complaints are actually one of the most under-appreciated and often under-valued components of social media.  Generally a complaint is a hopefully small window between what a customer or client needs and what is actually delivered.

How awesome of a company could you be if you knew exactly what your customers needed and could give it to them in the way they actually wanted it?

This is one of the ways that companies are benefiting from social media.

The key here is to employ a bit of problem-solving:

1. Listen – All feedback is valuable. Listen to what people are saying. Really hear it, no matter how hard it is to do so.

2. Define the Problem – 20 people are unhappy. Why are they unhappy? Was it a simple mistake that you’ve already fixed? Is it a known problem that you’re working on? Is it an old problem you didn’t really think was important? Or is it something new that you’ve never considered before?

3. Find the Solution -  If the problem is already fixed, would an apology or coupon help to ease over the issue? Did you think that the problem wasn’t important? Then now you know it is, and you can fix it. Are you working on the solution already, but can’t seem to find a solution that makes you customers happy? Then maybe ask a few of your constructively complaining customers for their ideas.

Both you and your customers want to make the transaction work, and often your customers will come up with things that not only make it a better company for them to deal with, but a better company for everyone. Customers love companies that care and listen, and value them.

Don’t be afraid of criticism. Often it’s our strongest hardships that help make us into something pretty awesome.

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Brett Tabke On Social Media & SEO

July 8, 2010 under ROI - Social Media, SEO

Wednesday night I had the privilege to hear Brett Tabke give a talk to my SEO group. Note, I say “my” not because I run it, but because I’m an avid attender/member. The group is actually run by some amazing people.

Back to Tabke, his presentation was supposed to be on SEO, which he did cover quite in depth on all the ways you can use your SEO skills for evil. His actual point was to protect yourself from the evil-doers with SEO-ninja skills, but read scarily like a how-to list of building SEO bombs on your competition. Scary. But it was some great information to help people hopefully see it coming and do something about it before its too late.

Interesting also was the beginning of his speech where he talked at length about Twitter and how it can truly make or break your marketing efforts.

He talked about spending large sums of money on marketing that had little return. Amounts of $65,000 and $75,000 dollars on more traditional marketing efforts, and seeing little to no return on the investment (ROI).

Then Tabke talked about switching to a shoestring marketing budget (he said zero, but he had to pay people to tweet at least, even if just himself) and how his ROI skyrocketed. His conference increased in attendance 30% in 2009 when everyone was closely watching their budgets, and his income increased a whopping 40%. That’s some ROI right there.

The key with every marketing scheme, plan, strategy is that you have to be where the people are. Right now, those places are in Social Media.

Whether it be Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin, Youtube.. or the more current bandwagons of location-based, GPS social media like Foursquare & Gowalla.

(if you need help with your social media efforts, or you have questions, please feel free to contact me. )

The Numbers Lie – Social Media Is Social

CounterYou hear it often from “Twitter Experts” that you need large numbers. You learn how to use different Twitter applications to get those large numbers of followers.There is something to be said for having quite a few followers or fans, since your message can’t reach people if they’re not following you.

But are your followers listening? Numbers alone doesn’t mean that your message is reaching anyone.

We like numbers. Numbers are easy to measure. Social influence is not. Even the new application Klout, which is designed to measure your Twitter social influence, falls short.

So while building numbers is great, you also need to build trust, respect, and bring something to the table.

Social media is social. You wouldn’t walk up to a stranger and demand they buy your products, don’t do it online. That computer screen you see, hides all the faces, minds, hearts of the entire world. Engage them. Talk to them.

Don’t be the online “used car salesman”… you won’t get very far.

Recommended read:  Where Six Degrees is Wrong by Warren Whitlock

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Facts About The Social Media Boom

July 5, 2010 under ROI - Social Media

There’s a great article over at DannyBrown.me, here’s just a snippet.

Facebook:

1. The average Facebook user has 130 friends.
(When one person talks about you on Facebook, it has a lot of potential outreach.)

2. More than 25 billion pieces of content (web links, news stories, blog posts, notes, photo albums, etc.) is shared each month.
(Thats a lot of content sharing. I wonder is any of it yours?)

Twitter:

12. Twitter gets more than 300,000 new users every day.
13. There are currently 110 million users of Twitter’s services.
(Talk about reaching a large audience.)

Linkedin:

28. LinkedIn receives almost 12 million unique visitors per day.
29. Executives from all Fortune 500 companies are on LinkedIn.
(So not only are there lots of people, but some very influential people as well.)

YouTube:

33. YouTube receives more than 2 billion viewers per day.
35. The U.S. accounts for 70% of YouTube users.
36. Over half of YouTube’s users are under 20 years old.
(Hmm target market anyone?)

Blogging:

41. 77% of Internet users read blogs.
43. 60% of bloggers are between the ages 18-44.
45. Two thirds of bloggers are male.
48. More than half of all bloggers are married and/or parents.
(Interesting demographics)

But thats not all.. for all 52 facts, go see the original article  at DannyBrown.me

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Why Do Social Media?

I’ve gotten asked several times, “Why should I do Social Media?”  “What’s in it for me?”

Rarely do I ever get asked “how” but more of a “Why?”

For me, the “Why” was never a question. But I suppose it’s the same with every technological advancement..

“Why would I put an ad on the Radio?”

“Why put an ad on TV?”

The answer is exactly the same for social media. Because you want more customers, you want to get your name out or advertise a product, you want to reach your current customers more efficiently, you want to be accessible to your current and future customers, and you want to be seen as relevant and innovative.

If you don’t want more customers, you don’t want to increase your base of loyal customers, you don’t want to be accessible and relevant to new customers and new technology, then really social media isn’t for you.

I attended a talk last week at the Austin Social Media Club and listened to a presentation by Simon Salt a local social media guru. Simon gave a few examples of the benefits of simple Location-Based (GPS) Social Media marketing campaigns. One company he mentioned had a 110% increase in growth, and another had a 20% increase.

That’s just for one specific area of Social Media marketing. Just One. Of course, not everyone is going to see that kind of growth or have that kind of growth opportunity.

However, don’t forget the value of having a customer base and being able to communicate directly with them.

What used to take millions of surveys and polls to figure out, you can now hear directly from the customer’s own lips. People are using social media more and more to connect to friends, talk, and voice their opinions, and most of that information is public for you to access. Plus, the easier it is for them to contact you, the more likely you’ll get to hear about products they want, new features to add, or even as Rich Harris, Senior Manager of Social Media at Seagate Technology, mentioned yesterday in a Hootsuite webinar, your customers may tip you off to a mistake on your site saving you hundreds of dollars in legal fees or lost sales.

People are going to talk, but are they going to be talking about you?

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The Money Power of Social Media Fans

There’s a great post over at Emarketer.com that gives some really compelling research and evidence of why you need to dive into social media marketing.. if you haven’t already. Go check it out.

“What Brand Fans Are Worth: Can A Single Number Capture The Value Of Social Followers?”

North America Social Media fan chart

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