Marketing Pilgrim's Reputation Channel

Marketing Pilgrim's Reputation Channel is sponsored by Trackur.

Customers Want Answers but Companies Still Ignore Negative Social Buzz

If you have an angry customer on your hands, things can get very ugly and very public, very fast. It doesn’t even matter if the customer is unreasonable or has their facts all wrong, a single negative post on a Facebook page can turn into a media nightmare overnight.

Still, the latest from eMarketer shows that only 49% of companies in a recent survey track and follow-up on customer’s social media feedback. Those that don’t follow-up are playing with fire, risking not only future sales, but their whole reputation.

It happened to Pampers, to FedEx, to Best Buy and hundreds of big name companies. Companies that can afford to hire PR saviors and lawyers to get them out of the mess. But what about the small business owner who lives and dies by every sale? That’s where monitoring and responding to social media buzz is imperative.

As you can see from the chart, customers are turning to social media with their customer service issues for a variety of reasons. The number one reason, “seeking an actual response from a company about a service issue,”  worries me. It implies that people have lost faith in the usual channels like email and the phone.

Take a moment to consider your own customer service reply level. How quickly do you respond to emails? How personalized are your responses. I’ve seen plenty of canned answers that don’t solve my problem. How dedicated is your staff to actually making the customer happy?

It’s nice to see that customers go online to say good things, too. The number three reason “sharing information” could be good or bad, depending. Then we have the 46% of people who just want to vent. I’m in there about once a month. That’s my response to a company that has pushed me so far I want the whole world to know about it.

These venting posts are often the ones that get picked up by bloggers and journalists and soon a single comment becomes a firestorm of hatred.

Look, you can’t stop people from posting bad things about your company. But you can be pro-active about providing good customer service and following up on issues in a timely manner. Sometimes, all it takes is letting the customer know that you heard them and you’ll do better in the future.

Take some time this afternoon to review your social media sites. Read the comments, search for your company name on Twitter and Google. In other words, seek out those unhappy customers, don’t run from them, or they could ruin you.