Wednesday, February 19, 2014
The Customer is (Usually) Always Right
I really enjoyed a recent AP news story, but not for the problems the owners of Amy’s Baking Co. experienced. Rather, this story crystallizes the ever increasing power of social media and the rising demand for customer service. It offers all of us an excellent learning experience.
The article highlighted a business owner (Amy’s Baking Co.) struggling with constant negative social media posts. You may recall the name from the series “Kitchen Nightmares.” The reaction by the owners to these critiques was highly combative. The owners basically called the people posting negative comments stupid, etc. As my mentor used to tell me, do not argue with a company that buys ink by the barrel. He was referring to a newspaper. We also hear for every bad experience, the person wronged will tell 10 people. Today, a person wronged will tell thousands of people. In short, is it unwise to provoke a person highly skilled in the application of social media.
The owners’ reaction was so harsh and so negative it inspired several articles on what not to do on social media. This one from Forbes is one of the best. It is by Ms. Kelly Clay.
Years ago when I lived in Columbia, SC, I drove by a new car dealership. Across the street was a car apparently purchased from the dealership. A large painted yellow sign claimed that the dealership sold him a “lemon” and you do not want to buy a car from the dealership because it might be a lemon too. I think we do not take these activities seriously, because it is one man making a claim. Now, take that same man and put him on Twitter and Facebook. Others will read it and they may add a gripe they have. If the message is written in an intelligent manner, it may lead to more critical comments. For a business, that is a real danger, especially if you throw lighting fuel on the flames.
This brings me to the second part - customer service. Experience tells us to admit to a problem, show a solution and offer something of value to the dissatisfied customer. Telling a customer that they are stupid or just plain insulting them will never get you very far (recall the previous paragraph). As a business owner, you may disagree with a customer, but remember, social media is about words used to generate emotional responses. How do you show humor or irony in 140 characters? It is very difficult. Equally important, it is easier and probably the right approach for a business to admit the customer may have a point or politely correct a misconception. And, be sure to read the Forbes article, the link is in the article.