There is a lot swirling in the blog/Twitter/marketing world about customer service being the new black, or at least the new marketing. Responding to a problem that a customer experienced is certainly essential, but the public and private roles that a customer plays in our current marketing sphere are often opposite one another.
The power of the customer cannot be underestimated these days, no matter how frustratingly bad / false/ spiteful Yelp reviews can be.
One of my clients had been ignoring social media space, as well as customer service, and one of my roles has been to connect the two for this small business.
From the start, I’ve been monitoring reviews and managing the response to any review below 3 stars. This was a totally new concept for the client. The communication offers an apology and asks for the chance to right the wrong with a free overnight or meal, etc. It’s a genuine outreach with a clear and compelling offer.
Two things have struck me since launching this customer service effort.
First, not a lot of people actually respond to the mea culpa.
Second, the conversion from angry to delighted customer is more powerful than can be imagined. While the effort might result in only a 10% response to the apology, those who do come back for a “do over” have responded overwhelmingly. And they are now advocates, messengers and marketers on behalf of the business.
One such customer wrote a glowing email to the General Manger after being treated right. He really raved about his experience and his gratitude at having his original complaint addressed. He also promised to update his Yelp review.
But here’s the catch. Now-happy customer who promised to update his Yelp review hasn’t. And it’s still doing damage.
This is the crux of the issue for many businesses and organizations who are working to both address problems and prevent them. They can repair a customer relationship, which is extremely important and does serve as an important part of marketing and brand management. But they can’t repair the PR (‘public’ and ‘relations’, actually means something in this context).
To me, this is the real power of the consumer. It’s beyond marketing. It’s having the ability to be both a positive messenger while simultaneously helping to tarnish (or destroy) a business’ reputation.
I see businesses making great strides at being customer-focused, thanks to withering reviews (that are often fair and honest) and the now-public nature of reputations. I think this is great because I am emphatic about good customer service and want to see much more of it.
But I’m also hoping to see a shift in how newly powerful customers understand their responsibilities in the public sphere so that the public and private experience — and messages they send — are more aligned.