The Internet has brought small businesses to a whole, new world. New contacts, customers and suppliers can be reached online, breaking down barriers that once existed. But there is a dark side too: the Internet makes it possible for people to complain about your business and immediately add fire to anything that you say. Without a carefully craft response strategy, your business could be brought down and unless you handle each problem carefully.
Know what people are saying.
Oftentimes, the conversation about your business takes place beyond your ears and out of sight. That’s a challenge if you want to nip problems in the bud. You can find out what people are saying about your business by setting up Google Alerts to have email updates sent to you as soon as they are posted.
Another way to track complaints is to participate in the same social media space as your customers. Facebook and Twitter are the most popular, with the latter used often to spread news fast. Some complainers will address you specifically by Twitter handle; others may be a bit more sly by simply using your business name.
Respond or not.
Not every negative complaint is worth responding to. You need to determine if a complaint is valid and whether a response is necessary. Quite easily, you might spend an inordinate amount of your time chasing complaints.
When you find a complaint, determine if the customer should be contacted. If so, send a message to that person and apologize for their inconvenience. Offer to make remedy. Newer comments with other people pitching in their responses should receive priority. Aged responses that suddenly appear may have little effect on your business.
Don’t respond online.
When danger for businesses is to discuss a problem via social media. Here, every word you say can be monitored by anyone else. And, what you say will never disappear entirely — your words can be photographed, saved and stored on another computer without your knowledge.
Reach out to the complaining party by private message. Provide a way for them to contact your or ask for a phone number to call them. Be mindful that some people record phone calls or may look for other ways to entrap you. If the problem is an especially difficult one to handle, consider hiring a public relations professional to assist you.
Your Follow Up is Important
When you field a complaint and that individual responds to your initiative, be certain to follow through. The last thing you want to do is respond and not close out the problem. It might create a worse problem by offering only token interest.
Besides resolving the problem, you might provide an extra incentive to ally the customer’s disapproval. A discount on a future purchase or service might be offered with a special coupon code available for redemption.
Know When to Fold ‘Em
Not every customer you reach out to will be satisfied with your response. There is no pleasing some people and they’ll make their displeasure known — loud and clear.
With difficult customers, simply offer an apology and your remedy. You cannot make them accept your offer and spending more time with them is a distraction. You need to know when to stay with them and when to fold your cards and move on.
Customer Satisfaction Online
Chances are you’ll discover that some of your customers are Internet savvy and will not reach out to your directly. Some business owners are put off by the indirect approach, but that’s the nature of business today. How you respond can help or harm your business, so carefully monitor the Internet and consider the approach you should take for any given situation.