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The Myth of Control: How Social Media Creates Transparent Customer Service

by Lori Saitz on February 4, 2010

Remember back in the day when the worst thing that could happen to a business owner was that the customer would leave without comment and then tell a few of her friends about the bad experience?

Back in 1998, when Chief Executive Salesman Jeffrey Gitomer published his book, “Customer Satisfaction is Worthless, Customer Loyalty is Priceless,” he claimed customers would tell three people if you did a good job, 10 if you did a great job, 25 if you did a bad job and 50 if you got into an argument with them.

Now that we all have access to Twitter and Facebook and Yelp and all the various other social media tools, think how quickly those numbers multiply, for good and bad. Instantaneous feedback, shared with thousands can be a blessing or a nightmare. It all depends on how you, as an entrepreneur, handle your issues and manage your reputation.

You do have control

At first thought, you might think that you have no control over what your customers say about your business. You do your best to provide quality service and let it go at that. In reality, you do have much more control.

Are you encouraging your customers to talk about you? Whether they have something good or bad to say, as a business owner, I want to know.

Back in the “old” days, restaurants had comment cards that you could drop in a box at the front or mail in to corporate headquarters. But as a customer, you couldn’t be sure anyone was really reading them or taking action on your comments.

Setting the stage

Now for example, a restaurant could have tent cards on the tables encouraging patrons to write a review on Yelp. In return, everyone who submits a review gets a coupon for a future visit. They don’t have to submit a favorable review to get such a “reward,” just an honest one.

Certainly, positive and negative feedback would be valuable to the establishment in improving their customer’s experience. And if the restaurant is encouraging public feedback, it goes a long way to making the statement that management actually cares about what kind of experience they are creating.

So you may not hand out comment cards if you’re in a professional service business, but you can still set the stage for feedback. For example:

  • Encourage your clients to post their opinions of your service on your web site or your blog, or anywhere else that might be appropriate.
  • Call them once the service has been completed and ask if they were treated well and if there is anything your business could do better.
  • Ideally, (with the client’s permission) you can record these calls and post the audio.

The bottom line is that you can use this new level of transparency to your benefit. And for your competitors who choose not to play along, well, they’ll face an accelerated death (that they’ll blame on the economy).

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Lori SaitzGuest contributor Lori Saitz is founder of Zen Rabbit Baking Company. She helps people show appreciation for and give recognition to others. The main (delicious!) tool her team uses to help accomplish this important feat is through The Gratitude Cookie(tm). A thin, crunchy cross between a butter and a sugar cookie, The Gratitude Cookie is so named because if you’re eating the cookies, you’re encouraged to think about something you are grateful for as you munch on each one.

Image: Justin Silva, Creative Commons

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