Most of us have experienced a not-so amiable dining experience, a newly purchased appliance that didn’t work or the wrong product delivered from an online order. Amid the frustration, we ask to speak to the manager or contact customer service. If the company is receptive to the complaint, resolves the issue and makes it right, often times, customer loyalty remains intact. If not, the customer takes their business elsewhere.
Prior to the digital age, that scenario was essentially cut and dry. We picked up the phone to call customer service or spoke face to face with a company employee on site. More than likely, the customer experience, as a whole, was shared with family and friends and it spread through word of mouth. I’m referring to “word of mouth” in the literal sense. Back then, aside from the occasional editorial in the daily newspaper, that’s all we had.
Now, customers have something incredibly powerful at their fingertips; smartphones, laptops, and other tech devices. Customers are plastering their entire experience, whether good or bad, on various social media streams. Within seconds, a single complaint or praise has the potential to reach thousands. Digital word of mouth travels fast. People share. It doesn’t take long for a photo of unidentifiable goop in a juice box to go viral.
Companies have found themselves face to face with these growing challenges in the digital world. Providing effective, quality customer service is an ongoing battle. Even with the best strategies in place, dilemmas find their way through the cracks. In addition to customer posts, a lot of companies have Facebook pages and Twitter accounts. I’ve seen customer complaints posted on business pages and tweeted directly to the company that were all over the charts. From a drive-thru iced coffee made with too much sugar to moldy pet treats and beyond.
Excelling in the area of effective customer service is no small feat. Social accounts have to be monitored ‘round the clock and replies doled out in a timely manner. A strong online presence needs to be established and maintained. Companies are seeking out customer care applications and relying on real time data. How do you contend with one post from a disgruntled customer that has thousands of shares on Facebook? Is it possible to turn a nightmare into a customer service victory?
While most of my experiences in the retail world have been positive, there have been a scattered few that haven’t. My decision to remain loyal to a company depends on how they handle the situation. I’m not a fan of automated replies or memorize and recite verbal responses. Regardless if I choose to call, email or reach out via social media, it’s most likely a win if the reply is personal. I don’t want the same ol’ song and dance that’s been dished out to 627 other customers. I’m not them.
The digital age will continue to expand and advance. That’s a given. Companies will have to keep up with that. However, amid the hustle and bustle of staying one or two steps ahead, there’s one thing companies should hold on tight to. Personalization. When there’s a complaint, step up to the plate, acknowledge the customer and make it personal. Follow through. Follow up. A customer complaint on social media goes a long way, but how a company responds to that goes a long way too.