I’ve made reference in a past column on the importance of holding on to the customers you have – surely not rocket science.
A colleague of mine has just gone through the process of upgrading his mobile phone, which might have been part of a special offer whereby the company in question wanted to reward him for his valuable business … a nice touch.
However, this promising attempt at customer service turned sour when the promised phone failed to arrive within the promised time frame. Eventually he had to wait 19 days for the phone to be delivered, despite making numerous calls and each time being told someone would be back in contact.
The days rolled by with no contact and no phone. Now, my normally mild-mannered colleague became more frustrated as each day passed. In the good old days maybe a few people within earshot would have endured his anguish and annoyance. Well, not any more.
Enter the strength of social networking and those damn fine tweets. In no time at all the trials and tribulations of the new phone purchase were in cyberspace for all to see.
There used to be a rule bandied around that if you visited a restaurant and had a good meal you’d tell one or two people, but if you had a bad meal you’d probably tell four times as many people. In the world in which we now live, populated with blogs, Twitter and a multitude of social networking sites, it is easy for people not only to only cast opinions and vent their spleen on a regular basis, but to reach far more people than ever before in the process.
The average Facebook user has 120 connections, so one Tweet linked to Facebook and away you go. Multiply that by the fact that most people use multiple social networking sites and within no time at all things will get well and truly out of hand.
There are of course tracking tools that will help you monitor what’s happening online, from simple Google Alerts through to the newer, Twitter-related monitoring tools. They’re all good to have, but a bit like bolting the gate after the horse has fled.
As an organisation dependent on customers, you have to be aware of what people are saying about you, or, more to the point, what they are writing about you. Now more than ever, you need to sharpen up your act on the customer service front and deal with customer issues and frustrations before they spin out of control. Make sure you under-promise and over-deliver. When you’ve got a problem, admit it and communicate with the customer about it. It’s all about exceeding expectations.
Failure to do so will see you castigated in no time at all and your failings shared with the world. The bad news will spread quicker than the Swine Flu pandemic.
Bob Pinchin is the director of Sway.tech, a specialist communications house for technology companies. Email firstname.lastname@example.org