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fly.pngGartner analyst Scott Nelson told “Customers can become your worst nightmare if they choose to share a bad experience on the web.”
And there certainly is no shortage of angry people posting their bad experiences online.
“Companies,” Nelson said, “must become smarter about the way they monitor their brands and think about how they are represented in blogs, and should encourage their PR teams and IT teams to work more closely in monitoring the web.”
Sure they should monitor. But the problems start long before the complaints hit the web.
Surely there are people who just like to complain. And there are customers who just can’t be satisfied. But the vast majority of people who have a problem with a product or service are honest people who have a point. They may be the best early warning system of design or service flaws that a company could ever find.
Don’t Piss People Off
Companies that listen to their customers, and thank them for their feedback – sincerely – won’t make customers so angry that they’ll vent online.
A long while ago, I ran a consumer complaint handling service called Rent-a-Kvetch. Its simple premise was that I wrote complaint letters for people who had problems with products or services.
People Want to Be Heard
Every single person who came to me had tried, in one way or another, to talk to the company, store, or person before they came to me. And nobody had listened to them. They were frustrated or angry enough that they’d often spend more than they’d paid for the product to hire me to complain for them. They wanted to be heard!
In 99 percent of the cases, I was able to solve the problem with a letter. The letters weren’t angry because these were not my problems.
I tried to appeal to the human side of the president or chairman. I explained very clearly what had happened, and always asked how they would feel if the same thing happened to them. I often tried to put some humor into the letters, even though the problems were not funny.
Act Like a Human
The companies didn’t solve the problems because I was a great letter writer (although I am) but because the letters reached someone who actually had the power to solve the problem. Executives at the highest level of a company are generally appalled to hear the way people in their company handled a customer. But few complainers get heard at that level.
Companies that give customers the ability to reach someone at a high enough level to solve their problem are exponentially less likely to have online nightmares. Instead, they’ll have happier customers. And those customers will tell other customers about their good experience.
It baffles me totally that this continues to be a hard concept for companies to understand: If you want to avoid online nightmares, listen to your customers when they have a problem. Respond. Respect. Rinse. Repeat.