“What if someone says something bad about me?!”

This is something I often hear when I talk to business owners who are considering building a Social Media Presence. In order to answer this question, I have asked a real customer service professional for help.

Wow Service Mentor signature image

I am very excited and grateful that Kristin Peturson-LaPrise from WOW Service Mentor took the time to write the following guest post about how to deal with criticism in the online and offline world.

Here’s what Kristin has to say:

Good customer service is a cornerstone of successful business; we all know that. Of course, nothing is perfect and so it does happen that people complain. We used to say that if a customer liked your service he would tell one person, and if he didn’t he would tell ten people.

Jeff Bezos, the CEO of Amazon.com, was quoted as saying,

If you make customers unhappy on the internet, they might tell 6,000 friends.

Customers are empowered to broadcast their opinions across multiple media platforms, and smart business owners and managers are listening to these comments as carefully as the ones made on comment cards and in real life. Complaints can mean a lot of bad publicity, but the good news is that a larger audience will see compliments as well.

The secret here is to make sure you are monitoring social media and responding to your customers.

  • Thank them for their compliments and even for their engagement; they will be pleased to know you noticed they are following you on Twitter or liking you on Facebook.
  • Ask them questions about what else they like, which product is their favourite, where they enjoy your products.

Pictures are powerful, and often customers will post a shot of themselves enjoying an experience at your business, or taking your product somewhere unique.

Jimmy Fallon recently got Americans to send in videos of themselves throwing a Subway sandwich like a football as a Superbowl promotion on his late night TV show; there was no prize or recognition other than the few seconds of fame if your video was chosen. He got thousands of entries, coming from every state in the Union.

If positive communication is powerful, then negative communication is nuclear.

If you can manage to catch a complaint in real time and respond to your customer with sincerity on social media, you will have shown the world that you care even when things go wrong. (After an initial message you can take the situation offline to keep details private.) This is service recovery in the 21st century.

Louis XIV of France Image
Louis XIV

It used to be that people’s lives depended on their reputation. In the 18th century, a man’s honour was still defended in duels, even after a decree by Louis XIV making it a capital offense. A woman who was accused of having kept the wrong company was left to become a spinster, her reputation forever tarnished. Nowadays, no one is fighting with pistols at dawn, but reputations are again a matter of life and death in the business world.


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