Monday, August 15, 2011

Give Your Customers A Place To Be Negative

In many blog posts and presentations on social media, I've reiterated the fact that if you have a business, no matter how big or small, you must have a presence in social media.  You can't ignore social media or claim that you don't have time to participate.

Recently, as I was preparing a social media presentation for a small business group, a thought about the need for participation in social media suddenly occurred to me:

You need to give your customers a place to be negative.

That's not a mistake.  You read it correctly.  You need to give your customers a place to complain about you.  That may seem to be contrary to why your business should have a presence in social media, but it should be a motivating force to be participating in the social realm.

The typical reasoning behind participating in the social mediasphere is to promote your company, allow your customers to follow you, and create new fans and customers.  Ideally, this would happen through positive responses to your business and products by satisfied and happy customers.  We would all love to have happy customers, positive comments, and recommendations from everyone who did business with us.

But, we all know that we can't satisfy everyone all the time.  There will be times that customers complain.  Whether it's a faulty product, poor customer service, or just the perception that the customer did not receive the expected value, you will have negative comments leveled at your business.

If you don't have, for example, a Facebook page, where is the customer going to go to make their complaint?  They may call you or even send an email.  But, more often than not, in this socially connected world, they will take their complaints to the internet.  They can tell hundreds, even thousands of people how much they dislike your business or customer service.  They can make those complaints nearly anywhere.

You might be able to discover those complaints through internet searches, focusing on keywords about your company, and by constantly monitoring lots of difference sites.  They might make complaints where you would be unable to respond, such as a personal Facebook page or blog which doesn't allow comments.

Why not give them a place to make those complaints?

Most people who make complaints about a business not only want to tell other people about their experience, they want the company to know as well.  Social media is taking the place of 800 numbers and customer service email addresses because the complaint can be made public.  If you have a blog or Facebook page where your customers are able to voice a problem with your business, there is a good chance that they will make a complaint on that site.

To quote Field of Dreams:  "If you build it, they will come."

This gives you the opportunity to immediately see the complaint rather than search the internet for it.  It gives you the chance to respond to the complaint and attempt to rectify the problem.  It allows you to do this publicly so that your other fans and customers can see that you care about your customers.  When you respond and publicly correct any problems, real or perceived, you have the chance to make a fan out of the disgruntled customer and potentially create even more fans.

Give them a place to be negative and I think that you'll find it will be positive for your business.