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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Amber Mac’s Top 10 Social Media Tips #2 & #3

July 20, 2010 under Social Media Basics
Amber Mac's Book

Amber Mac's Book

These tips really work together.

#2 Make Time:  Social Media takes time. So make sure you set aside some time every day to make sure the conversation keeps going.

We’re all busy with busy lives and many things to demand our time. It can get easy to forget to check your social media sites, and easy to set it aside.

Instead, schedule parts of your day to do social media, even if its just a half hour here and there. If you want to make it work, you have to put in the time.

#3 Be Consistent: Amber compared many people’s social media efforts akin to their approach to New Year’s Resolutions. At first, they start out all excited. They start going to the gym every day. They eat right. But as the days pass, they revert to their old ways of doing things and the gym becomes a forgotten except for a few times when people dip their toe back in now and then.

That method does not work. You have to be present and be involved. While this doesn’t necessarily mean you need to spend every waking minute on Twitter, or blog every day, you should have a plan of how often you want to update your social media, and how involved you want to get, and stick with it.

Be present and respond in a timely manner, have an active voice, and that will help you stand out from the crowd.

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Amber Mac’s Top 10 Social Media Tips: Tip #1

July 15, 2010 under Social Media Basics

Last week I sat through a great webinar presentation by Amber Mac (a Hootsuite webinar) promoting her new book, Power Friending.  I haven’t read her book yet, but if its anything like her webinar, it should be a good and useful read.

She had 10 great tips that she gave.

Tip #1

Be Authentic.

Personally I call this being human, but that’s more semantics. She recommended that you be authentic and speak in an authentic voice.  Not lawyer speak. Not sales speak. But talking like a real person and reacting to people like a real person.

This is my top #1 advice as well. Be Real. Be Alive.

The funniest thing to me was that she referenced Dominos as a great example of this. If you remember a while ago the video of employees doing nasty things to pizza, and then Dominos response to it.

I’ll link the video, in case you’ve not seen it, but this is the one example she brought up that I’m not entirely sure was a good one. I wholly agree with her premise, but..

About 3-4 months ago, I also went to a different seminar and listened to experts talk about sincerity in video and its effectiveness. The Dominos video was chosen as a “failed” video in this regard, as it seemed very formal, out of touch and boring. The presenter seemed detached and reading off a card rather than actually feeling the message he was saying. Un-authentic.

Yet, Amber Mac, another expert, used this same video as an explanation of what to do in response to customer outcry as a completely authentic response on the part of Dominos. She also credited this action of Dominos on saving their company, and credited the video as being a good example of being authentic.

I will agree that the mode of reply, a YouTube video, was a fantastic choice of medium for a response. I’ll also agree that the message, “This is not condoned by Dominos, and perpetrators will be faced with the full brunt of the law”, was much needed at the time.

But was this authentic? You watch the video.. tell me what you think.

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Explaining Internet Business Terms Simply

July 12, 2010 under Social Media Basics

Build Your Highrise OnlineI was explaining this the other day to a client, and it dawned on me that maybe there are other business people out there who are also confused by this.

So let me try to explain this the best way I can with an analogy that gets as close as possible to explaining what things are and how they work.

When talking about a website, people can mean may things as there are many components of it. These components are comparable to your normal every day physical store front business.

Address/Location: (where people go to find you. the address you give people so they can locate you)

Land/real estate: Website Hosting – the actual place that holds up your store. Your hosting company makes a difference on how much “land” you get, and how many people can be there at one time. Your hosting is comparable to a real location with fire codes and parking limitations – unlike a real physical location, you don’t have to change your address to change your host (land) options.

Building/Store: Website construction. This is the decor and look that people see when they come to your address. The same concerns you’d have with people coming to your physical store are the same concerns you should have with your website.  Does it look good? Does it make people want to come in? Are the products easy to find? Is it easy to get around the shop? Is it outdated? Does the feel of the shop fit the products that you’re selling?

Signage/Visibility: SEO – search engine optimization – Do people even know you’re there? How you build your site can also affect your SEO. Much like a physical location, does your site come with big neon signs? billboards? or just one very small tiny sign that if you blink you miss it? Does your sign tell people what you do? Does your signage (keywords) fit your store? Or when people finally get curious enough to enter are they thinking you do something you don’t?

Your SEO can also include off-site billboards, or other similar things for the online world that helps direct traffic to your store.

Networking/Word of Mouth/Advertising: Social Media. This might be close to where I start stretching the analogy, so bear with me. With your physical location, you have outside interactions with your customers. You might see them on the street or meet them at a networking event. You can sometimes drum up new clients or new customers by going to some of these kinds of events. The online version of this is social media.

With social media, you can do the same type of networking you used to do by going to events simply by going online to social media sites. You can interact with people, find out what they do, and tell them what you do. When an opening comes up, you can tell them more and hook their interest. And just like real world social interaction, you do need to create that feeling of trust and respect before you foist your business on someone. Remember whether you’re online or offline, you’re dealing with real people.

But there’s something in social media that you can’t really get from anywhere else, and that is word of mouth. With social media, most of that word of mouth is searchable and you can often trace a complaint or compliment back to its source. This allows you to correct whatever problem at its source, and improve your products, store layout, and customer service.

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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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Tips On How To Write Great Copy Online

If you’re used to writing copy for newspapers or professional magazines, or you’re looking for a great copy writer for your online business.. The article below is a must read.

When writing copy for an online audience, whether it be simple Twitter posts or posts on your blog, having great grammar skills can be detrimental.

What you need is copy that can not only convey the message in a quick-to-read, easily digestible way, but show your company’s personality or add a human component.

As someone said to me once, “The internet is a very cold place.”

Make sure your copy helps breathe some life into it.

So please read: 4 Grammatical Mistakes That Can Enhance Your Copy

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Twitter Tips For The Beginner

June 29, 2010 under Social Media Basics

Just a few tips to get you started:
1. Keep your ID short. It might be tempting to call yourself “VonQueenOfTheJungle” or to go with your full business name “YvonneYoungSocialMedia” but they’re way too long.  Twitter only allows for 140 characters. While the length of your name won’t have an effect on the length of your messages. The longer your name is; the less room people have to type a message to you.

So keep it short and sweet, even if it doesn’t make much sense. There’s space on Twitter to put your real name or business name as well so people will know who you are. However, do be innovative. Instead of picking “Von12345” instead go for “BoxofVon” or an appreviation of your name, your company or a creative nickname.

2. Follow people you find interesting. Follow people that you want to interact with either personally, professionally (collegue or customer), or you just enjoy their subject matter. One of the most important parts of Twitter is interacting with each other. Following people you find interesting will give you plenty of chances to interact with them about things that they post, and interest them. This will also give them chances to learn more about you and promote yourself or your business.

3. Twitter is social with real people. Sure there are automated bots, but most tweets (messages posted on twitter) are written by real people with real lives and real feelings. Remember this in your dealings with them. Socially the same general rules apply in Twitter as would in your every day life. “Treat others as you’d like to be treated”

4. Be Interesting. The flipside of Tip #2 is that your tweets also need to be interesting and engaging. Whether you’re tweeting for personal or business, do your best to post tweets that add value to the the Twitter community. Whether it be an interesting video you found, a new product you’ve developed, or a quote you find helpful. While now and then the mundane can add character about you “So tired today, my shoes don’t match.” It’s not usually a good idea for every tweet.

5. Tweet often, but not too often. There’s a line between not tweeting often enough, and tweeting to the point of spam. As much as people may like you, you can get quickly unfollowed if you’re constantly adding too much clutter to someone’s twitterstream.  If you’re posting breaking news, you’ll get more leeway than if you’re posting knock-knock jokes, but keep conscious of how often you tweet. You can also tweet too little. In which people following you, might stop following you due to inactivity or send you messages asking if you’re still alive.

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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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