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There’s only one guaranteed way to make sure your customers never trash you on Tripadvisor, Yelp, or any other review site: never make a mistake. Actually, it’s worse than that: You’d have to never make a mistake as defined by your customers (who, as everyone in business knows, don’t always see things exactly the way you expect them to.)

Well, good luck with that. I'd say the more realistic way to avoid ever being torched online is more like the following: Be there when the customer needs you.

Be there when the customer first starts to feel misunderstood--before things get out of hand and onto the airwaves of social media.

In other words, an essentially part of dealing with social media feedback (and blowback) is to reduce the need for it by making sure your customers know how--as directly as possible--to reach you,

Customers needs every possible opportunity to tell you to your face (or on the phone, or to your direct email inbox) how they're feeling. And they need to be able to see that you care, are listening, will respond to their concerns.

Make sure they have these opportunities to reach you, and your customers won't, by and large, take their gripes and furies to, say, Yelp for the world to see.  (Or if they do, they'll do it in a more moderated, considered--and considerate--way.)

Think of it this way. I apologize for the baldness of the imagery, but I promise you once you think of it this way, you’ll never forget.  This is what I call Micah’s Parable of the Unzipped Fly, and it goes like this: If your friend saw you had your fly undone, or spinach between your front teeth, would he tweet about it? Of course not. He’d quietly tell you. (And if nobody tells you all day that your fly’s unzipped, it’s proof positive that you have no friends!)

The same principle works in business. Why should customers address issues to you indirectly via online reviews, when they can use email, the phone, or a feedback form on your website and know that it will be answered—immediately? (Have ‘‘chime in’’ forms everywhere; it’s like building escape valves for steam into your machinery.)

With their round-the-clock access to the airwaves, make sure that the first impulse of customers is to reach you—day or night. It’s the much, much better alternative.  And when they do, be there for them, fully, until their concern is addressed, their problem resolved.  And before it becomes a public fiasco.

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About Micah Solomon

Business speaker, consultant and #1 bestselling business author Micah Solomon is known for his ability to transform business results and build true customer engagement and loyalty. Micah has been named by The Financial Post, “New Guru of Customer Service Excellence.” www.micahsolomon.com

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