Monthly Archives: September 2014

How to Handle the Angry Online Customer

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angry woman screaming at smart phoneWhen you open your business to customers, as a storefront or in the digital world on social media, you take a risk: the risk of angry customers. How do you respond?

You’ll find one key advantage to social media: time.  Though you should respond to angry customers promptly, you do have a few minutes to craft a response appropriate for the situation. Just take a deep breath, and use these tips:

  • Take another deep breath. Read through the customer’s complaint completely, and try to understand where they’re coming from.  What is their #1 complaint?
  • Be prompt. Customers expect businesses to respond with online customer service within an hour. Don’t delay and add fuel to the fire.
  • Don’t get defensive. Your business is your baby, and you’ve poured your blood, sweat and tears into it.  Don’t take their complaint personally. Look at it as feedback that needs to be addressed—and address it as such.
  • Admit your mistakes. If your employee was late or rude, apologize. Your customers appreciate it more if you are honest and transparent. Try to sandwich the negativity with “Thank you so much for your feedback. We apologize for the delay by our technician. We will use your feedback to make sure that this error does not happen again.”
  • You don’t have to give them a discount, but it helps. This is a fine line, dependant on the discount you give. Be consistent with your discounts.  If the problem is a shipping issue, offer them free shipping on their next order or offer to refund their shipping costs. If the product was broken, offer to ship them a new product for free. Don’t give them a half-hearted offer, like 25% on selected products or 10% off when they spend $150, so it sounds like you’re not trying. However, you don’t have to give each customer a brand new product—and you don’t have to let everyone know what you are offering. You can respond with “Thank you so much for letting us know about your issue. Please watch your ‘Other’ message folder for a message resolving your issue.”
  • Run your response by someone else. Everyone reads things differently. After you’ve crafted a short response, have an outside party read it and give feedback.  Make sure you use a professional tone, and don’t come off as haughty or defensive.
  • Review it one more time. Before you hit ‘send’ or ‘post,’ read through your response one more time. Make sure that if a million people read your response that it would reflect favorably on your business, even if you are admitting a mistake.
  • Say thank you even when you don’t mean it. Be polite even if your blood is boiling. Even if you are addressing a customer with what you see as a unique situation, your response will be seen by other customers—and potential customers.

Once you’ve responded, resolve the customers’ issue and move on. If the problem could happen again, change your business’ procedures or processes. Remember, once the encounter is done, it’s done. You have other customers to please and other products to sell. Move on into the positive side of social media, and take full advantage of this marketing tool.

How Hashtags Changed Your Customers’ Online Expectations

company execSocial media has revolutionized the way businesses reach their customers. Consumers swarmed to social media, and businesses saw an opportunity to connect in a more meaningful way. The result: a change in customer expectations that every business should use when delving into the world of online marketing and social media and crafting a social media strategy. It’s one of the oldest adages of marketing, with a new twist thanks to social media: know your audience, and know what they want from you.

  • They want you to feed them relevant topics. They get updates from their friends and twerps in one long list, and expect the same from businesses. Give your customers what they want, and don’t make them search for it. They want relevant information and resources pertinent to their lives and the latest specials on products and services. They want blog and social media posts with videos, photos and text. As a whole, videos are the preferred format, which are 12x more likely to get a response than text-only posts. If you want to reach every type of consumer, “mix and match” formats (i.e. photos, apps, video, etc.), and use photos with every post to capture your customers’ attention.
  • They want updated information, and they don’t have patience for companies that can’t deliver. If you can’t give regular social media updates and blog posts, outsource to marketing experts. It’s better to have updated social media channels than irregular posts and dated information. We’ve said it before: there’s no shame or blame in outsourcing.     
  • They want online customer service, and they want it fast. One survey said that consumers want a response to their inquiry within four hours, with some studies putting that number as low as one. If you have a social media channel (or channels) or contact us form on your website, your customers are going to reach out with questions. If you’re a flooring company, they ask about the type of flooring ideal for their living space. If you’re a construction company, customers can send questions about their project. They expect a response, and they expect it fast. Make sure you’re ready to give a quick response, and provide friendly customer service for those with negative comments.
  • They want you to listen! You’ve given your customers a place to express their ideas and opinions. Take the good and the bad as an opportunity to know your customers, and adapt your business to what they want. Listen to their comments, and respond with the same customer service that you offer in your office or store.
  • Give them what they want, in a mobile format for expanding smartphone usage. If you’re posting a link, make sure it’s to a mobile friendly site (and make sure your website is mobile friendly!). The number of Americans with smartphones is increasing, and they won’t wait until they get to their laptop to be able to browse your site—they’ll take their money to a more mobile-friendly site.

Every social media audience has different preferences for browsing times, so research the statistics and experiment with post and tweets to see when your highest response times are. Know your online audience, know what they want, and deliver it with the same smile and friendly service you give the customers who walk into your store.

5 Signs Your Aging Website Needs a Redesign

splash4_designAll right you admit it.  Your company’s website is a bit outdated. The kids in your pictures are married with children. Plus, the look of your site is clearly retro (and not in a good way), and users leave the site almost immediately because of the lack of functionality.

You need a new website. Bad.

If your pictures aren’t outdated, you think your business is in the clear, don’t you? However, with studies showing that people now spend more time online than watching TV, your business’ digital presence is more crucial than ever. While having an updated website used to be a luxury, now it’s more important than ever to watch for the signs of an aging website—and for good reasons:

  • Mobile users are on your site, but can they use it? With statistics putting American ownership of smartphones between one-half and two-thirds of the population, you need to be a fortune teller and look ahead. This upward trend of smartphone usage is not going to going away, and chances are it won’t decrease. You need a mobile user friendly-website.
  • You’re not listed on the first page of any search engine, or even in the top 100. Even if you can’t sell your product online, more than 90% of people start their search for a product or service using search engines like Google, Bing and Yahoo. Having an attractive and functional website with search engine optimization technology not only allows customers to find and contact your business, but also brings them in the door. (If you don’t know how important search engine optimization is for your business, find out in our recent blog post.)
  • You need a blog. Today customers want to get to know your company through a blog, not advertising, statistics show. Show that your business is customercentric: give them the resources they need, when they need it.  Each blog post also becomes an indexed page, which gives your site a better chance of higher rankings on top search engines.
  • Even if your users find you, they can’t do anything. Today’s customers receive the latest information quickly, and expect the same of your business. Make sure they can contact you, ask for a quote and send you questions with clear calls to action throughout your website. Since you’ve given them that instant gratification, remembers it works both ways—you need to respond, and respond quickly.
  • Your website does not represent your current products or services any more. Don’t brush off outdated information. Potential customers won’t call you, or do their research on your site if they know it’s outdated.

If your website is showing these signs of age, get rid of your business’ digital grey hairs. Update the look and feel for superior aesthetics, and add the functional aspects that keep customers on your site—and coming to you time and time again.