Posted by: CarolAnn | July 27, 2012

Online Customer Communications: Are you committing social media suicide?

Perhaps social media channels should come with a warning label, “If you or someone you know uses social media, you are in uncharted territory. Be careful: you may be permanently labeled with bad customer service.” The reason why negative, online campaigns work so effectively is because one person is able to generate a buzz (with a little help from his friends). After all, it is still word of mouth –and on the Internet, the little voice of one can be amplified by thousands, if not millions.

For the most part, John Q. Customer naturally wants acknowledgment for his thoughts, concerns and woes. If he can get a pointer or two on how to achieve a solution, you are already one step ahead of the game.  In many cases, it is just a simple understanding that even if you or your business cannot directly solve a consumer’s online grievance, that you are offering alternative means or suggestions to remedy an issue or concern. When you ignore an online complaint or compliment altogether, regardless of the age of the product or service, you are doing a disservice to yourself and to your business.

Missed Opportunities

When a online consumer posts a troubleshooting inquiry on an outdated or otherwise irreparable product, do you respond in turn? Most organizations tend to shy away from such online interactions as the product may be out of warranty or perhaps too old and obsolete to offer any useful tips or tools. This is where businesses miss the most opportunities online. For example: a very frustrated, Jane Customer writes online about her 6-year old hot water heater that suddenly kicked the bucket. She is distressed because she expected her water heater to last 10 or more years. She has spent hard-earned money on your product. She wants to know what she can do to get it running again. Do you offer any online advice? If you fail to acknowledge her online, you have lost a potential customer. Not only have you lost Jane as a potential customer, you may lose other prospects, too. How so, you ask? Just like the Internet, technology in all industries, moves at the speed of light. Modifications are made, new guidelines take effect, new engineering techniques come available, and before you know it – the very same products that were once proudly marketed no longer have parts or service support. Clearly this presents a pickle for you and your business – are you being proactive on social media?

 

Retaining Consumer Loyalty

When you’re your offline and online customers discover that they are being heard, it makes a positive impact. In the example above, Jane Customer does not get a social media response, so she feels slighted and is forced to purchase another water heater. Do you think she will purchase your brand again? The likelihood of that is slim to none. To make matters worse, other consumers online see Jane’s post and catch the impression that your company does not care about its customers; nor does it stand behind its products.  Topping that off is the fact that many relatively quiet online forums can be quickly amplified by a simple click of a key. Yes, the dreaded “Like” button or “Tweet” button … or worse, the “Share” button (distributed to ALL social media channels) can turn an otherwise voiceless consumer into a multi-national superstar in a matter of minutes.  Are you willing to take that chance?

If you are business-savvy, you appreciate your consumers and understand the profit value they bring to your bankroll and to the reputation of your company, your products and your services. Knowing now how detrimental one little online voice can be to you and your business, would you respond to the consumer in the given example? What would you say? After all, her unit is out of warranty. You no longer offer parts or service support for her product. What are you supposed to tell her? Is there anything else you can offer your consumer? If you answered, “no,” then you are still missing the ball. Think about it.

In the end, how you communicate, what you communicate, and how quickly you communicate in your online customer relationships can make or break your business. If you have entered the social media game and are not playing the board effectively (as an online consumer advocate), you may just lose to those competitors who know how to play it well.

Online Customer Communications: Are you committing social media suicide?

By CarolAnn Bailey-Lloyd

Copyright – 2012

© ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

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