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Issue #190

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

In the last few newsletters, we have been alternating between two series: Achieving Success with Post-Merger Integrations and Social Media Strategy. In this edition of our newsletter, we present the third and final article in the series on Social Media.

In our next edition, we will pick up with the third article on Achieving Success with Post-Merger Integrations. Enjoy!

Handling Customer Complaints in an Online World            
by Brian Waldman

It used to be that an unhappy customer would leave your store and complain to a few friends.   “Huh, really?” or “oh, that happened to me there once” would probably be the end of it.  A customer lost perhaps, maybe two.  You would recover.  That person would probably even be back at some point to give you another chance.

Well, that time is gone.  Every customer of every business now has the ability to share his or her story with the entire world.  Not just for a few minutes or days, but for years.  One bad customer reaction could lead to dozens or hundreds of lost customers and your business would never even know about it.  You might not even have known about the original incident but SLAM, there it is online, scaring away potential customers or even potential employees.

The problem is, not all reviews are created equally and not all businesses know how to handle them.  Here is one person’s hard learned opinion on how to handle negative online reviews.

Rule 1 – Don’t ignore them.  At least don’t ignore the big ones.  There is a temptation to just want to pretend they aren’t there.  Maybe they will go away?  Perhaps you can hire a reputation management company to drive down the organic results?  Perhaps, but between now and the fulfillment of your penny in the well, a LOT of customers are going to read it.  Designate one person in your organization to monitor your brand keywords on Google and in review websites.  When a new review comes up, pause, take a deep breath, do some research and respond.

Rule 2 – Don’t be too defensive or too aggressive.  Most humans have empathy and can appreciate that not every customer is going to leave happy.  They will read the review and wonder, what happened there?  Well, here is your shot to let them know.  Sometimes the answer is that you messed up.  If that is the case, reach out to the customer privately but respond online to the reader, not the complainant.  The same goes for cases where you believe the customer over-reacted or was the source of the issue.  Never show anger, defensiveness or talk in corporate speak.  Be factual, reasonable, apologetic (when necessary) and respectful of your own staff and reputation.

Rule 3 – Never, EVER, comment more than once.  Business A receives a negative review.  They feel strongly that the customer had either unreasonable expectations, or treated an employee inappropriately.  Business A responds to the complaint in a reasonable and honest way about how they regret the negative experience and also that the employee involved has a great track record of providing exceptional services.  The angry customer fires back, escalating the tone and anger in the exchange.  Business A wants to respond, to defend itself from this now even more vicious attack!  DON’T DO IT!  You won already.  Remember the audience you are responding to isn’t the one who complained; it is the broader group of individuals (customers and potential customers) reading the review.  By escalating even more, and probably in an even more unreasonable way than the original complaint, the antagonist now seems to be the unreasonable one.  Thank them for doing you the service and move along.

Here is a link to a very reputable review website where you can read some of the interactions we dealt with in my previous position.  You may disagree with some, or all, of what I said in these replies, but we did get a lot of praise from customers who called us about our openness and willingness to take responsibility.

We hope you enjoyed our series on what it takes to be successful with Social Media. If you are wrestling with your Social Media strategy, feel free to contact us. We are here to serve!

About Brian Waldman

Brian Waldman is an Internet Entrepreneur and Consultant with over 12 years of senior leadership experience in Web and eCommerce Strategy.  From the early days of Google to cutting edge Social Media tactics, Brian has learned how, and how not, to be successful leveraging the Internet to achieve business goals across different industries and customer types.

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Recommended Reading

For a comprehensive guide to Customer Relationship Management, you are encouraged to read CRM In Real Time: Empowering Customer Relationships.

As described on

This comprehensive guide to Customer Relationship Management (CRM) draws on Barton Goldenberg's 20+ years of experience guiding firms to a successful implementation of CRM solutions and techniques. Goldenberg demonstrates how the right mix of people, process, and technology can help firms achieve a superior level of customer satisfaction, loyalty, and new business. Beginning with a primer for executives who need to get quickly up-to-speed on CRM, the book covers a full range of critical issues including integration challenges and security concerns, and illuminates CRM's key role in the 24/7/365 real-time business revolution. CRM in Real Time is an essential guide for any organization seeking to maximize customer relationships, coordinate customer-facing functions, and leverage the power of the Internet as business goes real time.

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