You may have heard the “statistic” that a happy customer/client/business partner will tell one person while a dissatisfied one will tell ten. In my experience, this is pretty close to accurate and we aren’t going to change it no matter how hard we try. What you can try to do is change the feelings of the unhappy customers and minimize any damage done to your reputation by those who will never be satisfied.
I recently read Think before you bitch by my friend Sue Spaight. Great advice in the post, no doubt about it. My feeling is that unfortunately those who read the post are already by and large decent people who don’t bitch for the sake of bitching. Sue’s post is about trolls on Yelp! and other business review sites. In my head I heard myself saying Sue, get used to it. As a guy who grew up in retail, I can tell you trolls have always existed and upset customers have always told ten times more people than satisfied ones have.
They have a bigger megaphone now. Or do they? Sure a troll can jump online and share the details of their bad experience (be it perceived or real) just as they used to do offline with friends. Sure the online review has the potential to reach more people. The online review, however, can be responded to by a business owner listening (monitoring) the online universe for reputation.
This is more than damage control. Because business owners and managers time is valuable, it’s important to understand the time taken to respond to negative reviews has value. You are doing something it was very difficult to do in the offline-only world. You are showing prospective customers that you are transparent and engaging online.
Sometimes you will have to acknowledge a factually true bad review and take your lumps. Most of the time you can simply respond by saying you are sorry for their bad experience and ask if they informed the manager on duty so the situation could be dealt with immediately. If a conversation ensues, you can, when appropriate, ask the troll to stop back so you can personally take care of them next time. This approach is very disarming and shows that you care as a business owner or manager.
First quality service is the key
About a day after Sue’s post, Joe Sorge shared a message on Twitter about Groupon not being for every business. I agree. Instead provide first quality value and service up front. Couponers are couponers and often never return. Some of your loyal customers will use them as well, further eroding profit margins. Your best and most frequent customers end up shouldering the real cost of offering coupons and discounts. See how that works?
Spend the time and money on reputation management. You can be a premium brand without charging a premium price. Premium brands however, do not discount. They may reward frequent shoppers but they don’t coupon their goods and services. Think about Starbucks rewards of free beverages for frequent shoppers, not coupons and discounts for infrequent patrons.
Now, the fun part. Do you think the concepts and thoughts in this post apply to the business to business space as well? Share your thoughts in the comments and I’ll let you know how I fee about it as well.