Most business owners know better than to take their customers and clients for granted. Savvy entrepreneurs also understand that the better connected they are with their customers, the greater the chances of closing deals and getting coveted repeat and referral business.
Rewarding loyal customers with offers, coupons, and personal thanks is important, but it is equally important to also remember to foster relationships with your difficult customers.
Provide Outstanding Customer Service
Just as important as it is to allow your "good" customers a way of communicating with you - either by phone or email, and, a way to offer positive reviews and ratings, you also need to address the needs of those who are not so happy with your business.
Most customer contact will come in the form of questions about products, services, order updates - these are all opportunities to generate new leads and business, so most business owners respond quickly to encourage a transaction. Unanswered questions and inquiries that do not get a fast response can result in losing a potential sale or client to someone else that responds while they are waiting on your reply. Or, worse, will result in customers posting negative reviews about your poor response time or lack of good customer service.
Offer Your Customers A Way To Complain Or Vent
Frustrated, angry customers follow every business - you cannot please everyone all the time. Customers who cannot vent at you are likely to vent to friends - or worse, across social networks. More than one company has had the unfortunate experience of their domain name or company name being used to create "rant" websites with the works "sucks" tacked on at the end. Here are just three out of thousands of "company sucks" sites:
- flashsucks.org - A website devoted to the misuse of Adobe Flash on websites.
- companynamesucks.com - This is a consumer complaint site where visitors can enter a company name and a complaint and it creates a log of [COMPANY NAME] Sucks with your complaint.
- disney-sucks.com - A rant site about the human rights abuses Disney commits and how the company yields its wealth to influence lawmakers in a conspiracy against consumers.
According to columnist, Lisa Bachelor, on a UK website, TheGuardian.com, "Twitter is becoming so widely used for complaints that companies, from LA Fitness to BT, have Twitter accounts specifically to deal with customer feedback." She further states, "For example, BT has @BTcare, First Direct has @firstdirecthelp, Halifax has @AskHalifaxBank and La Fitness has @LAFitnessUkHelp."
KiroTV.com, offers similar disturbing story of consumers gone wild, "A Facebook page called "Bellingham Costco needs a special time just for Americans" was created on July 19 , and has gained more than 2,000 "Likes" (people receiving updates from the page) as of this August 2012." The site allows people to post complaints about Costco, with many of the complaints unfairly directed at Canadian shoppers.
Bad Reviews On Yelp?
Yelp is a great place for businesses to get referrals from past customers and many businesses now offer incentives for such referrals, for example, "mention you saw us on Yelp and get $10 off." The problem with Yelp reviews is that people are more likely to take time to post negative reviews that are unfair and often consist of only half-truths about a given business. Once a negative review is posted there is little you can do to undo the damage, except to get more positive reviews.
Be cautious about offering bribes to artificially inflate positive reviews.
- 7 Essential Tips for Making Sure Your Online Reputation is Under Control
- Bribes for Positive Yelp Reviews?
- More Yelp! Manipulation of Doctors' Ratings
Make Social Networking Sites A Safe Place To Vent
While you may be tempted to remove negative comments from your Facebook page or comment sections on blogs and websites - as a rule, don't. Unless they are really over the top (senseless rants), instead of deleting them, address them. This not only helps diffuse the angry poster from going to other sites and posting bad reviews, but also gives you a chance to speak on your own behalf.
While it is often said in the celebrity world, "bad publicity is better than no publicity," this is not true in the world of business. Pay attention to your bad reviews, and treat them exactly for what they are - bad for business.