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Susan Armstrong

Handling Customer Complaints in an Online World

Business owners face several challenges when it comes to customer service in the digital age

Handling Customer Complaints in an Online World

Handling Customer Complaints in an Online World

If you have owned a business for more than five years, you’ve probably noticed a difference in the way your customers express their satisfaction – or dissatisfaction – with your products and services.

It used to be said that a satisfied customer would tell 10 people about their experience, but a dissatisfied customer would tell 100. Today, the commonly accepted statistics agree with Pete Blackshaw’s book: Satisfied Customers Tell Three Friends, Angry Customers Tell 3,000.

The huge increase is based on Blackshaw’s research and illustrates the power of customers in an Internet-driven world. Blackshaw references “Consumer Generated Media” (CGM) sources such as blogs, social networking pages, and product review sites as drivers for the new numbers. Even these expanded numbers may be conservative; they were generated in 2008 when Blackshaw was EVP of Strategic Services for Nielsen Online.

In today’s socially connected world, a single bad experience may be posted on social media and generate a storm of comments.

Whatever the numbers, today’s consumers are definitely in the driver’s seat. Their comments have an overwhelming impact on brand reputation. This leaves business owners facing several challenges when it comes to customer service:

  • The speed of technology requires “real-time” responses to complaints. The longer a dissatisfied customer waits for a response, the more damage they can do to the reputation of the business.
  • The public discussion online elevates the customer’s expectation of what an acceptable resolution should be. Customer complaints that used to be resolved with a phone call or a letter can no longer be dismissed so easily.
  • Transparency is critical, for any resolution of product or service issues. Businesses must be authentic as they listen and respond to customers. Anything less will destroy fragile relationships.

The good news is:

  • It is easier than ever to discover what your customer is thinking.
  • When a customer’s complaint is resolved quickly, he can become a champion for your brand. The research indicates these customers are even more loyal than other long-term customers who have never been dissatisfied.
  • Loyal customers can also come to the aid of the business when they believe the criticism they are seeing online is unwarranted.

Successful businesses will do everything they can to engage their customers in ways that support the company brand. They will solicit favorable reviews and encourage customers to share their concerns. And, they will respond quickly when problems need to be resolved.

With the right communications strategy, customers will know they are being heard.

And isn’t that what they have always wanted?