One sure way to lose customers on and off social media

Last week, I was out car shopping for a small, fuel-efficient vehicle that I could use to do my business travel and reduce our gas usage every month. My husband and I had a list of dealerships we wanted to visit and we knew what we wanted to accomplish at each one of them. We had really good experiences at the first two dealerships. Then Matt sprung a stop on me that I wasn’t expecting. He’d put a car on the list that wasn’t ever an option in my mind, but I was game to check it out.

I didn’t really have a lot of interest in being there, so I let Matt take the lead. He approached the hostess and inquired about the car we wanted to look at. The doubtful look she gave him was my first clue that this might not go well. After a couple of minutes, she returned to say they didn’t have an available demo model for us to test drive. That was fine with us - we had a different purpose in mind. 

A few minutes later, the sales person came out, but his demeanor gave me the impression he wasn’t really interested in helping us. His words confirmed this. There was one model of the car on the lot. He explained that it had sold, but we could take a look at it. We said that would be fine - we didn’t want to test drive it. Then he said that he didn’t know where the key was and he’d looked for it a day or two before and couldn’t find it. (Yes, the car that had sold apparently had no key.) At this point, we cut off the conversation and left as quickly as we could extricate ourselves.

We were literally saying goodbye as we walked away. It’s hard to convey in text how disinterested the staff was at this dealership was. When I texted Lara, she was surprised and suggested a different dealership for the same car maker. But I was done. I knew I could get what I wanted without inconveniencing myself with a drive across town.

The lack of interest exhibited by the staff at that dealership means that they’ve lost my business, and so did the car maker, despite knowing the car maker to be reputable with very loyal customers. They didn’t completely ignore us, but they may as well have.

Just as it is crucial for businesses to pay attention to the needs of their customers and respond to them appropriately in person, it is essential to do so through social media channels. The truth is, an abandoned or unused Facebook, Twitter or other social channel indicates disinterest to your audience. It’s really no different than customers walking in to your storefront and being ignored.

This situation at the dealership reminded me of an incident a friend described to me recently with a totally different dealership that has been ignoring their Twitter account and repeated efforts to address a serious customer service issue - through multiple channels (not just social media). Last I heard, that dealership had lost my friend’s business as well.

Customers who feel the lack of interest don’t stick around - and neither will your audience.

What if they say something bad about my business? (Part 1)

Lara and I have built a business on helping business owners keep social media simple so they can manage their web presence without feeling overwhelmed.

  • We love it when our clients have lots of questions (even when they stump us).
  • We are happy to take steps backward whenever it’s required to help clients understand a tool or concept.
  • We welcome enthusiasm even if it leads to choices/actions that may not be quite optimal.
  • We genuinely, sincerely want to help business owners succeed.

When talking to business owners about getting started with social media, one of the most common barriers to entry for a business is the fear of negative feedback.

Fear is typically irrational in that we fear unlikely events. Fear of negative feedback is justified for even the most loved businesses out there, because no business is perfect

If the fear of negative feedback is justifiable, how can a business justify the risk?

Business owners got negative feedback and attention for centuries before the Internet ever existed. People aren’t afraid to express their displeasure. Negative attention on social media can - and occasionally does - spread like wildfire. With the right strategy and monitoring, negative feedback can be a great opportunity to salvage customer relationships and show prospective customers that you care about providing great service. (We’ll talk about dealing with negative feedback more in a follow-up post.)

On the other hand, negative feedback isn’t the only feedback businesses get!

What if they say something really good about my business?

This story, which I first read over on Social Fresh is why I’m writing this post.

Full disclosure: Publix is my favourite grocery store ever and not because of this post. I grew up in a house that was and is loyal to Publix. See that? I don’t live anywhere near one and I’m talking about how much I have always liked it.

If Publix wasn’t on Facebook, it’s still possible that their customer would have posted this to her personal profile. That’s a fantastic endorsement of their customer service…to her friends. 

A business that uses the fear of negative feedback as the primary justification not to participate means they’re also throwing out opportunities for positive interactions too. And as long as businesses turn a deaf ear toward social media cannot address and resolve customer complaints, nor will they experience the thrill of hearing about a job well done.

What are some other compelling reasons for businesses to jump into the conversation?

3 reasons to use social media for customer service

Customer service can make or break relationships. When it’s consistently satisfying needs, complaints are minimal and growth may be steady. When it’s consistently exceptional, the bar is set and patrons are often slightly more forgiving of slip-ups. When it’s bad, your company can develop a poor reputation that will eventually affect the bottom line.

Fortunately, thanks to technology there are a plethora of tools at our disposal that can help organizations stay on top of the needs of their customers and prospective customers.

1) You want to be where your customers are.

This week updated numbers were announced for Facebook - they’re up to 900 million accounts. Twitter announced a few weeks ago that they’re up to 500 million accounts. On these two networks alone, you will find customers and prospects for your business. Being able to answer complaints, compliments and queries through the channels people are using to discuss your business makes good business sense. You wouldn’t run a business without a phone or website. Social media is yet another essential communications tool.

2) You want to know what people are saying, even if they aren’t saying it to you.

With the advent of the Internet, businesses were given a gift on a silver platter - the ability to allow the world to find them. But it works two ways. Your business can monitor keywords for your industry, products and company name. Imagine the ability to respond to a need and gain business simply by being a good “listener”. Social media tools can give you the ears to hear far more than ever before.

3) You want to capitalize on scalable word-of-mouth marketing. 

You already offer quality products services with stellar customer service and people like to talk about your business any chance they get. That’s a powerful position to be in. Social media will take that to the next level for you. Based on the infographic below, people are 71% more likely to purchase based on social media referrals. 

Ecommerce Inbound Marketing vs Outbound Marketing - Infographic

Ecommerce Marketing Software - All-In-One Inbound Marketing Software

The bottom line? Social media has a big mouth and big ears. Contributing value to the conversation will only benefit your business.

Have you ever had a great customer service experience through social media? Tell us about it!