It probably seems a little counter-intuitive, but bad feedback when handled correctly can actually provide a benefit. All companies, even the great ones, can run into problems with unhappy customers. Just ask Steve Jobs about the recently released Apple iPhone 4G. While bad feedback is something you'd like to avoid, the fact is it happens. In today's highly connected Social Media world what is most important is how a company resolves the issue. Conversations and opinions are being shared online all the time that are influencing purchase decisions. Companies who have decided to listen to their customers, embrace transparency and encourage feedback are seeing an increase in sales and a strengthening of their customer loyalty. Those that make a win / win out of a bad customer experience are creating a competitive advantage.
Voice of the Customer: Even if you are a very small company there are conversations taking place (good or bad) about your products on Twitter, blogs, Facebook and through other Social Media channels. Social Media is the new gossip column, the new local nail salon or as Coleman might want you to believe the new camp fire where people sit around and share ideas, complain about things and talk about their experiences. You can either choose to participate in the conversation or ignore it. It's your choice. However, customers are sharing their opinions online 24/7 and dialogue is taking place that is impacting your sales. Would not you want to have a part of those discussions?
Turn Bad into Good: Research conducted by the National Association of Retailers found that more than 95% of customers who had a bad experience came back and bought more products, when their original issue was handled quickly and in a fair way. In addition, data shows that resolving customer issues in a transparent way where others can see the output can have a positive impact on attracting new buyers. The reason has to do with trust. People naturally have a higher level of trust with people who are willing to admit a mistake. This same dynamic works with companies. If customers see that you are willing to go out of your way to fix a problem and show them that you value their satisfaction they are more likely to buy again.
What Type of Company Are You? Online conversations are taking place and consumers are seeking out opinions in order to make buying decisions. Are you participating? What approach do you take?
- See No Evil: You do not believe that there is a sufficient amount of customer feedback being shared by your buying audience to make it worth your while. If you do not see it or hear it then it does not exist. You do not need to do anything about it. You find out only when it is too late.
- Newbie: While you might be aware that your customers are talking about your products and sharing testimonials and reviews, you tend to ignore it. You believe bad feedback will bounce off your chest and not affect your other sales. You have ignored the opportunity to make your products better. Your competitors are quietly starting to catch up with you.
- Bull in a China Shop: You are vigilant and you are highly aware that feedback is being shared, discussed and valued, but you are so convinced about the supremacy of your products that you think everyone is wrong. Instead of listening to your customers in order to make things right, you tend to confront your audience to try to convince them they are wrong. You have not only missed an opportunity to show them you are listening but you have alienated them by showing you do not care. (Steve I hope you are reading this blog and yes you should have apologized for the reception issue upfront)
- Customer Centric: You see everything; hear everything and you have put in place functions and tools to actively solicit feedback. Responding to both good and bad feedback, you quickly resolve issues and take advantage of every bit of input to optimize your operations and build a stronger relationship with your buyers. You proactively turn customers into advocates and by your openness you persuade more and more prospects to kick the tire.
Only you can decide what type of company you are and it does not matter if you are B2B or B2C. If you want to do business online, gathering customer feedback, soliciting reviews and making it easier for your audience to have a two-way conversation with you is becoming an essential element. Companies that have embroidered a higher level of transparency, participate in Social Media and value the voice of the customer are way ahead. Bad feedback will happen regardless of how strong your brand is or how good your product. In today's highly connected world you can not hide. When you turn an issue into a positive example of your superior customer focus, and make it visible, you can actually build stronger loyalty and stimulate greater sales from your customers. Be customer centric and create an advantage while others are not even listening.