Poor customer service has never been excusable. Prior to the advent of social media, the rule of thumb was that on average, disgruntled customers would tell 10 people about their bad experience.
And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Because those 10 people tell others, and so on.
But that’s nothing compared to the damage social media can now do to your business reputation if you don’t keep your nose exceptionally clean.
If you consider that the average Facebook user has 200 friends and those friends are literally at their fingertips, a bad review can ‘go viral’ very quickly indeed.
Take a friend’s complaint about a famous retailer just today for example.
A mighty serve
My friend left no stone unturned in making her displeasure about the retailer very clear indeed, mentioning both the retailer and an ‘f bomb’ prominently in her Facebook post. Because the post was just five words, Facebook had made the post even larger than usual (a relatively recent development).
It appears the retailer provided her with incorrect information about fixing a picture frame.
This friend is no social media guru and is someone I’d consider an ordinary user of Facebook. But she has 368 Facebook friends, which is well above average.
Within four hours the comment had attracted a modest six ‘likes’. That doesn’t seem too damaging right? Well, not until you dig a little deeper.
Meanwhile, under the hood
The post had attracted a further 17 responses from her friends. Within those responses were replies numbering up to 41!
Remember too, that these comments will appear not only in this thread, but to friends of anyone commenting via the activity feed.
These figures don’t include the number of connections who have seen the post but not engaged with it, which would be many dozens more again.
A numbers game
So in just four hours, the comment may have reached the kind of numbers only small radio or television stations could reach prior to the advent of social media.
And because the comment wasn’t posted on the retailer’s own Facebook page, there’s not a thing they can do about it—not now anyway.
The only thing they could have done about this—and a myriad of other social media complaints—is prevent the bad bloodletting by ensuring their service is exemplary every time.
And this approach is not just reserved for the big retailers.
Size doesn’t matter
Businesses of all shapes and sizes need to be on their guard against bad reviews by upping the ante on customer service.
Much time and effort needs to be expended on ensuring that any customer facing aspect of your business is as bulletproof and as proactive around customer delight as possible.
Even then, this is no guarantee against bad social PR. Unfortunately social media users have a habit of venting about business because they got out on the wrong side of bed that morning and the barrage can be completely undeserved.
For niceness instead of evil
However, there is a positive side to so much concentration on customer service. And that is that viral can work in positive ways too.
In almost the same way as a bad review can go viral, so can a good one. Unfortunately this is rarely in the same proportions as a negative experience.
Interestingly, those that followed the conversation from my friend’s post in detail would find that the retailer actually isn’t at fault with this complaint.
The problem is, the main and very prominent post remains. And so few follow the entire conversation.
Just another day in today’s ‘always on’ world …
In addition to being a leading eBusiness educator to the smaller business sector, Craig Reardon is the founder and director of independent web services firm The E Team, which was established to address the special website and web marketing needs of SMEs in Melbourne and beyond.