Originally published on The 1to1 Blog
The real-time Web is an increasingly powerful tool for customers to get the word out when out when they feel a company has wronged them. In fact, a recent study by loyalty marketing company Colloquy revealed that 26 percent of those surveyed said they were far more likely to raise hell about a negative experience than they were to sing the praises about a positive one.
Now more than ever, companies need to have a strategy in place to ensure that customer service dust-ups don't become full-blown disasters.
Give customers options for communicating with you
There was a time when toll-free numbers were all a company needed to manage disgruntled customers. Today's customers have a number of ways to communicate with companies--and they use every single one. Companies must be prepared to field support issues via phone, email, their website, and social media channels such as Twitter and Facebook. And if companies aren't diligent about providing and monitoring all of these channels, the likelihood of something spinning out of control is high.
Have one unified tool for monitoring and responding to customer service issues that are submitted through a multitude of channels; otherwise, your customer service team will be spread too thin.
Respond to customers quickly
Bad news travels fast...at the speed of the Internet. So, it's of the utmost importance that you respond to disgruntled customers as soon as possible. Even if you aren't able to fully resolve their issues during the first contact, it's important that you reach out and acknowledge that the issue exists. And don't just issue a cookie-cutter or canned response, especially to those customers with whom you have a long and loyal relationship. Sincerity and authenticity go a long way.
Stop problems before they start
Don't wait for customers to tell you what's wrong with your product or service. Instead, use tools that can help identify where your company's weak spots might be. Lots of companies use surveys or customer satisfaction ratings to do this. Knowing where your customers are struggling gives you the power to create content that can better help them, or better distribute your resources, such as how many support agents you're staffing, or at what points of the day your helpdesk is at its busiest.
Use insight from satisfaction ratings
Customer satisfaction ratings and surveys are a popular way for companies to see where their customers are happy and where they aren't. But both can offer a false sense of security. How many companies do you know of that actually go the extra step and take action based on the information a survey reveals? Make satisfaction ratings and surveys actionable, not just data that's reported internally.
Create a culture of transparency in your company. Take Facebook, for example. Even as its user base continues to grow, the increasing animosity among those users is something the company is going to have to face as it commits one privacy blunder after another. Most recently, the company admitted to tracking the Web activity of its 750 million users, even after they logged out of the site. These are the kinds of things where even the biggest companies can lose customer loyalty. Long-term success comes to those companies that are open with their customers and win their trust.