Cold shoulder can make a difference in customer service

By Robb Hicken/ BBB’s chief storyteller

The horseback ride ended with a downpour. We had prepared with our rain gear, but nonetheless we got wet, so when we stopped for a soda at the gas station in Middleton, we were dripping water.

However, we were not nearly as soaked as the motorcyclists that pulled in behind us.  The driver and passenger were drenched. Their leather riding gear shown the droplets, and their shoes squeaked as they walked through the store.

“Quite the downpour,” the attendant said as I approached the counter.  I concurred and paid

As we stood in the doorway, the motorcycle couple dripped their way to the counter.

“Hey, you’re dripping on the counter,” the clerk said, as he pulled out a cloth to wipe the droplets. “That’ll be $5.79.”

The change in attitude because of a drop of water on a counter top could cause a ripple of bad commentary on today’s social media. Social media can be a tool to strengthen customer service and to give consumers an outlet to complain about a company. According to a Convergys Corp study in 2011, one bad tweet or one negative post on Facebook can lose a company up to 30 customers.

The YouTube video from the musician whose guitar allegedly was damaged by United Airlines baggage handlers (it actually ended up with three videos chronicling the experience) had more than 10 million views. News reports say within days of the posting, United Airline’s stock price dropped 10% in value.

That’s definitely more than $5.97.

BBB offers some advice or points to consider before a wet, frustrated or angry consumer writes a blog or customer review:

  • Social Media makes complaining ‘easyand can potentially be false or misleading. It takes “sleuthing” to decide if comments posted, whether favorable or damaging, are truly filed by a customer with a genuine experience with that business.  Does an employer, a disgruntled employee or a competitor pay for those postings?  Copy the postings, post in Google and see if the comments are found elsewhere – a yellow flag they may be staged.
  • Don’t lose your sense of fairness. Using the adage from the playground, blogs and reviews can be unfair when the other side of the story is not heard or given an opportunity to respond.  Consumers may use reviews that do not give the business an opportunity to respond to the posting. Therefore, a company may not be able to change or improve their services because they simply were uninformed.

Social media has had no effect on the number of complaints reported to Better Business Bureau and people who use the dispute resolution services are seeking more than just venting – they are seeking resolution that may put money back in his/her pocket, cancel a contract, or get the job finished.

Social media doesn’t always give the opportunity for those results – unless you post a creative and successful YouTube video  – and not everyone can do that!

This column first appeared in the Business Insider June 10, 2013


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