Word of Mouth: Five Steps to Deal With Negative Customer Feedback
The advent of blogs, message boards and online social networks has become a double-edged sword for multichannel merchants. Consumers now can easily heap goodwill and praise on your brand and products, but they just as easily can disseminate complaints and vitriol about a poor service experience. So what do you do when your erstwhile customers are shouting your flaws from the rooftops? Following are five steps to deal with negative word of mouth offered by Andy Sernovitz, CEO of the World of Mouth Marketing Association, taken from his recently published book, “Word of Mouth Marketing: How Smart Companies Get People Talking.”
1. Know what people are saying about you. Finding this out goes beyond cruising your own customer reviews and message boards. Use search engines to find out what people are saying about you elsewhere on the Web. While Google and Yahoo! searches can provide generic results, specialized blog search engines such as Feedster, Technorati and BlogPulse can alert you when something relevant to your brand has been posted somewhere in the blogosphere, Sernovitz writes.
2. Build credibility before you need it. “The best thing you can do is to have genuine, non-spin blogs written by your team,” Sernovitz points out. When you’re a known participant in the blogging community, customers will give less credence to random complaints, he notes.
3. Show that you’re listening. When you read something you like, be it related to your brand or industry, on a blog or message board, post a note saying that it’s great. Likewise, if you see unfair criticism of your products or service, post a reply addressing the issue and offer to help solve the problem. “Most negative conversation is actually a plea for assistance,” Sernovitz writes. “And the negative stops when you solve the problem.”
4. Convert critics when you can. Treating critics like valuable customers and trying to win them over with special attention directly on a blog or message board will garner two benefits, Sernovitz notes. First, a record of a happy resolution will be posted on the critics’ Web sites. Secondly, converted critics often will become your most enthusiastic fans.