An acquaintance of mine called attention to a blog post about the grave mistakes that companies are making in social media - largely because it's a sentiment that resounded with her as a customer, but those of us on the other side of the customer-supplier relationship would do well to heed it.
The Post by Jen Lancaster, "Much Ado About a Suit," speaks for itself - not much I can do to make the point more powerfully or eloquently - but in case it disappears, here are her key points:
- There is nothing a company can do to "make" the customer post a rave review: "If I genuinely like something, I tell everyone."
- Neither should companies rush to react to a customer who's less than delighted. "Sometimes I just want to be heard," Jen writes, to determine if her situation is unfair or if the company is being honest about the excuses they're giving for the service failure.
- If a company has served a customer well, they will ultimately be forgiven for a single bad incident
- A customer has to be extremely irritated to post in the first place: "I don't seek out reasons to post negative comments ... frankly, Idon't have that kind of time." It's a sign of a serious failure.
- Offering coupons or discounts as an incentive to get someone to retract or modify a negative review is insulting and manipulative and only irritates a dissatisfied customer.
- Attempting to overwhelm the customer with the reasons for the service failure is likewise ill-conceived: the condescending tone of "you don't know the trouble we went to" doesn't substitute for the fact that the company ultimately failed and "you have no right to expect any better" is even worse.
- Customers don't like to gripe about being disappointed by companies - they like to NOT be disappointed.
- Customers are not so gullible that they do not recognize you are merely trying to clean up the PR damage and have no intention of fixing the problem.
- The bottom line is: the customer doesn't want an apology, and the customer doesn't want a gift. They want you to live up to your promises. And there is no substitute for that.
It's a point well made, and a point that should be well taken, by a company that takes a long-term perspective on success. Much of social media and PR in general pertains to smoothing over the customer who is irate over broken promises - but what customers really want is for you to keep your promises in the first place. The company that does so has little need of expertise in the practice of making apologies.