Remember that dream where you suddenly found yourself naked in the middle of your old school/home town/office..? Every day, hundreds of business owners are feeling that unfortunate and dreaded sense of shameful exposure – because an epic customer service fail has gone viral on social media.
The days of sweeping it under the rug when things go wrong are gone. The world is watching you. And it secretly enjoys when someone screws up…
Cautionary tale #1: Papa Johns takes a massive public relations hit when an employee describes a customer as “lady chinky eyes” on her receipt (read more)
Cautionary tale #2: Boners BBQ: when a customer (politely) complains about poor service, instead of attempting pacification, the unfortunately named “Boners’ launch an aggressive and defamatory campaign on Facebook (read more)
There are many more similar horror stories, and if you Google ‘social media fails’ – you’ll find them.
You do NOT want to end up on one of these lists…naked in public.
Social media can be your greatest ally when growing a business, because it allows you to operate on an even playing field no matter how new or small you are. But it can also be your worst enemy – running up to you and pulling your pants down in front of the world when something goes wrong.
As a start-up, you have a gloriously virginal customer service record. A blank slate. A white sheet. It’s now down to you to create and manage a positive public perception of your brand.
This doesn’t mean you need to be perfect, it means that you need to be authentic, deliver exceptional customer service and perhaps most importantly of all – it means you need to be responsive to complaints if and when you screw up. People will remember how you dealt with the problem a lot longer than they remember the problem itself.
Ignoring a customer issue will make the situation worse. Responding aggressively (ref: Boners BBQ) will create a public relations nightmare for you. The customer is king. A disgruntled customer will do more damage to your brand than you can paper over with clever marketing.
So be strategic with your communication from the moment you go into business:
– never underestimate the power of word of mouth to make or break you
– get crystal clear on your brand message and core values, and be true to them at all times – be authentic and honest
– treat every customer like royalty
– aim first to engage and build relationships, generate leads and sales second
– respond rapidly, professionally and effectively to all feedback
– remember that your online communications are out there on the interwebs forever
If you want to build a successful business, brand loyalty and a happy customer base, keep your clothes on and act as if the camera was on 24/7 – because in reality, it is…
Victoria Judge owns and operates Expert Agency, providing outsourced marketing, web PR and event management services to experts and entrepreneurs. When she’s not making her clients rich, she can usually be found at the beach, out on her horse or in Wittners.