Doing Right By Customers

Social media has changed our lives, no question. As a consumer, today you have more power than ever. The Internet brought a massive expansion in choice of where we shop, and increased access to lower prices via that competition.

Social media, however, is an equalizer. It’s a conversation medium like none that’s existed before. Enabling a customer in Florida to talk directly to a manufacturer in Oregon in real time (timing permitting, of course) to get direct answers form the source.

Outlets like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and more enable people to speak directly to retailers, sharing the good, the bad and the ugly. Those same outlets have become havens for businesses seeking to engage customers, be they fanboys and girls or haters.

And while it’s nice to interact with those who love you, it’s probably even more important to interact with those who are disappointed with you. It’s from them that you will learn how best to improve products, services and processes.

Amazon hit a wall once upon a time. They’d cracked the nut on ranking, began to dominate ecommerce and took hold of a large portion of online sales for many people. But then people started to complain. And they complained enough about one thing that it caught Amazon’s attention: the packaging of shipped items needed improvement.

Today, Amazon consistently seeks feedback on items you are shipped. Did it arrive intact? Was the packing well done? Was the box intact or crushed? They want to know about the condition of your item from when you saw it on your front step to when you took it out of the factory packaging. And they’re less concerned about THEIR packaging, but more concerned about what happens when a third party ships something to you. Amazon can control its own actions, but not necessarily that of those third party vendors.

While not every business has the size, shape or shadow of Amazon, every business can learn to care like they do. And let’s be clear here. We’re not talking best-friend-consoling you caring. We’re taking about sifting through details to find what works for a customer AND improves profitability. This is business after all.

Continual usability testing can go a long way to curing what ails your customers, too. Ever had the disappointing experience of using a mobile device, going to a site and realizing their navigation doesn’t accommodate a touch environment? Without a pointer, you can’t activate the navigational elements to get where you want. Now, if you’re the business, sort that stuff ASAP. What are you waiting for?! People are on mobile…NOW.

The good news is that more and more businesses are getting smart about social media programs. No longer just using them to push sales messages out, they’re increasingly being used to engage customers, talk about problems and are seen by more businesses as an early-alert tool for brewing problems. Yes, your dirty laundry may get aired in public, but that’s going to happen whether you participate in the conversation or not. Better to be involved than ignore things and develop a bad reputation.

And that’s the point here. Being responsive to customers. Thinking of them first, while not ignoring your business needs, and finding a way to deliver an outstanding experience. When you impress a customer, they share that experience. When you disappoint a customer, they share that experience. But turning disappointment into a positive, that’s a surefire way to convert complainers into advocates. Accomplish this a few times, the word starts to spread, your reputation looks better and the long term effects are solid and proven.

Duane Forrester
Sr. Product Manager

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