It's What You Don't Know That Matters

In this age of social networking information travels much faster than it ever did. It's all good, when it's used for good purposes. But what about when your customers start spreading bad news about your business?

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Customer Service: Beware of What You Don’t Know

In this age of social networking and web 2.0 communication, information travels much faster than it ever did. It’s all good, when it’s used for good purposes and people tell others how good you are. But what about when people start spreading negative information about their experience with your business? Are you aware what people are talking about behind your back?

Community Forums

It all started with community forums and newsgroups. Before the introduction of public instant messaging, in the days of dial-up internet, people used to share their experience and asked for help by posting messages on forums or emailing a newsgroup. While many forums still exist, they are heavily moderated, which prevents abusive messages make it to the masses. The current danger comes from instant publicly available messaging systems such as Twitter, Facebook and the like.

The Urge To Share

Don’t you find it annoying? It appears that people nowadays feel the need and even responsibility to tell the world about their experiences. What used to be private is now public. What used to be secret is now proclaimed all over the world. People buy something off the internet and even before they click the final submit button, they already blog and twit about it, e.g., “I just found a good deal here” and so on. When the goods are delivered, they say “Oh, that was quick! Just got such and such delivered ahead of time”. Positive comments drive herds of potential customers to the same web site and bring new business to the vendor.

When, however, something goes wrong, customers are quick to tell the world about it too. The other day it happened with one of the businesses that I am involved with. A customer went to pay their bill using online credit card processing form. Such manual payments are verified by the business staff and then manually credited to the customer’s account, normally, within an hour. Five minutes after the customer made the payment, he called the accounts department and asked why his payment hasn’t been credited yet to his account. They explained to him that it takes about an hour to process. The customer got angry, hanged up the phone and went straight to his twitter to send messages such as “this company’s services are bad”, “don’t use this company”. The company’s staff was quick to respond by sending a sort message to counteract the claims.

Beware And Be Aware of What Your Customers Are Saying

The first and most important thing for each business is to be aware of what is actually happens on the net, to know what people are saying about the business and how others are responding. It’s what you don’t know can really hurt the business. Businesses can not assume that all is good, and customer service personnel cannot dismiss negative claims about the business without actually knowing or checking out what went on.

It is highly suggested to join social networking website and messaging services like Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, MySpace and many others*. Even if there it no intention to post messages, businesses need to have access to such media in order to be able to search and monitor comments about them. Once a week or even once a month, it is suggested for someone in the business to spend a day or two searching the net for the company name or phrases such as “business name sucks” or “business name reviews”. This will bring up most of the current day comments about the company. When replying to negative comments, acknowledge the other people’s concert and reply explaining what the company is going to do about it. Become an active member of that community. This, in itself, may prevent a lot of negative comments in the future.

Whatever you do, don’t dismiss negative comments. Train your customer service staff how to respond. Make it look like the company appreciates every customer and is willing to improve areas that attracted negative comments. It is the age of instant messaging. Encourage your business to use it to its advantage.

(*All trademarks mentioned above are property of their respective owners).

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The review "It's What You Don't Know That Matters" was last updated on 14/10/2009.