I guess it was inevitable, but we’re quickly seeing companies dividing up into two social media camps: those that get it, and those that don’t. Take one indicator: how companies respond to customer complaints. As Jay Baer pointed out, an amazing 70 percent of companies didn’t respond to customer complaints in a study of 1,298 Twitter complainants (Maritz and Evolve24).

I’ve personally tweeted negative comments about experiences with big companies like United Airlines and Chase Bank, with no response (vs National Rental, which responded quickly to my tweets about a mishap at one of their rental locations). By comparison, I’ll bet you’d respond if you’re a small business owner and your business depended on it.

Why? Because you’re closer to the customer. Bigger companies-ok, let’s say marketing and communications departments-are several degrees away. They’re detached from the customer. This will have to change.

Dead american cockroach

Image via Wikipedia

Getting to know and help your customers-customer service- isn’t rocket science, but it does take work. Entrepreneurs and small firms who depend on repeat business get this.

I was reminded of this recently when I hired an exterminator to  get rid of some pesky ants around my house. “Pete” had already come out 3 months ago and sprayed, but a few ants were starting to pop back up so I had him return. He said he’d be glad to do it, and said he often came back and sprayed months after a homeowner’s warranty period had passed.

“The idea is to keep the customer happy, that’s all that matters,” he said.

But the other reason was this tended to generate extremely positive reviews on Yelp and Angie’s List, which Pete monitors like a hawk. He’s now #1 pest control company in Portland with 21 reviews on Yelp, all five star. The next competitor has three, and Pete has more coming.

Reviews are a powerful marketing tool and Pete is doing what big companies struggle with-turning customers into raving advocates.

He even launched a new section on his website for reviews and feedback, thinking that if people are complaining he’d rather see it first-hand. “If they complain on my site I can do something about it vs being out there somewhere else where I can’t do anything. Plus I can use it to talk about my services, my approach”- in other words, “turning lemons into lemonade,” as Baer put it.

This is a great judo approach-using negative comments to connect with customers. The Maritz study found that 83% of the complainants that received a reply liked or loved the fact that the company responded.

Yet some companies still resist, thinking they can control negative feedback. Look at what happened to Chapstick when they deleted some negative comments on their Facebook page: A PR fiasco.

Note to these companies: we’re in a new world. The consumer is now empowered, so deal with it.

Sure, Pete is just a simple, single-dimensional example. He doesn’t have to deal with layers of corporate bureaucracy, inertia, lawyers, corp. politics, and battle-worn senior managers. But he is a great example of staying close to the customer and meeting their needs. Customers like his positive, direct demeanor: ”I tell people if you’re not satisfied, give me a chance to make it right,” he says.

Bigger companies are often missing this connection with the customer, and social media is beaming a giant spotlight on the issue.

“Customer service” should go well beyond responding to comments. You can use your blog, Twitter or Facebook page to glean tons of insight about your customer-what they think about your company, your product, the overall market and so on. You can use this to improve the product or figure out better ways to market it. Of course, you can also use it to share valuable content that will help them run their businesses, and endear them to you.

The ultimate goal is to transform the customer experience across all touch-points, and how they view your brand. When the company thinks of your company, you want them to think … (fill in the blank).

This will require a massive transformation of the way we do business, and deal with our customers. We’ve come out of a world of mass production, mass marketing and advertising, mass…everything. Now we must figure out how to develop 1:1 relationships with our customers and scale these, a new type of relationship marketing. And we must leverage subject matter experts and others who until now have been buried behind the corporate walls.

Yes, we need to develop an army of authentic, corporate-like “Petes.”

So far this has been a challenge with the companies I’ve worked with. Many want to rush ahead, launch a few quick programs and emerge as a major online industry influencer. Those that have succeeded realize that, in the end, customer service is about relationships, and trusting relationships take a long time to develop and nurture. You’re not going to do it with slick marketing or PR- or just throwing up a Twitter or Facebook page. Social media is a marathon, not a sprint, and we have a long way to go.

Enhanced by Zemanta
Did you enjoy this blog post? If so, then why not:Leave Comment Below | Subscribe To This Blog | Sign Up For Our Newsletter |

About Mark Ivey

Mark Ivey

Mark Ivey is a social media consultant with the ION Group and a published author with a broad corporate background in editorial, marketing, social media and executive communications. He’s served as a Bureau Chief at BusinessWeek magazine, national media spokesman for Intel, and recently, as Editor in Chief for Hewlett Packard, where he pioneered a new program to drive its enterprise blogs and other social media activities. Besides family, friends and good wine, his passion is social media-training, strategizing, and exploring new digital paths for his clients. Find him on Twitter at @markivey.

Other posts by

Comments & Reactions

Comments Policy

Comments on Social Media Explorer are open to anyone. However, I will remove any comment that is disrespectful and not in the spirit of intelligent discourse. You are welcome to leave links to content relevant to the conversation, but I reserve the right to remove it if I don't see the relevancy. Be nice, have fun. Fair?

  • http://twitter.com/Conuiti Reid Sellgren

    What let customers voice their concerns publicly? Every small business should read about Pete’s dedication to customer service and the positive business impact he has had through social media. As I’ve blogged about, many of the larger B2C and B2B businesses are just now stepping up and we are (still) on the edge of an exciting paradigm shift in business marketing. 

    • http://www.ioncorporation.com/blog markivey

      Reid-couldn’t agree with you more. Thanks for stopping by. 

  • http://twitter.com/Conuiti Reid Sellgren

    What let customers voice their concerns publicly? Every small business should read about Pete’s dedication to customer service and the positive business impact he has had through social media. As I’ve blogged about, many of the larger B2C and B2B businesses are just now stepping up and we are (still) on the edge of an exciting paradigm shift in business marketing. 

    • http://www.ioncorporation.com/blog markivey

      Reid-couldn’t agree with you more. Thanks for stopping by. 

  • security equipment

     It’s always nice when you can not only be informed, but also get knowledge, from these type of blog, nice entry. Thanks 

  • security equipment

     It’s always nice when you can not only be informed, but also get knowledge, from these type of blog, nice entry. Thanks 

  • http://pestcontrolseo.wordpress.com/ Thos003

    Who would have known that you can learn something from a pest control guy?

  • http://pestcontrolseo.wordpress.com/ Thos003

    Who would have known that you can learn something from a pest control guy?

  • http://www.secretsushi.com/ Adam Helweh

    Great read Mark. I am a big fan of “the relationship” aspect. Folks sometimes get caught up in the technology and don’t realize the secret sauce is how you approach the relationship with the human beings you serve in your business. Good stuff.

    • http://www.ioncorporation.com/blog markivey

      So true, it’s the relationship not the technology–we have to keep reminding clients and anyone else who’ll listen. Thanks Adam

  • http://www.secretsushi.com/ Adam Helweh

    Great read Mark. I am a big fan of “the relationship” aspect. Folks sometimes get caught up in the technology and don’t realize the secret sauce is how you approach the relationship with the human beings you serve in your business. Good stuff.

    • http://www.ioncorporation.com/blog markivey

      So true, it’s the relationship not the technology–we have to keep reminding clients and anyone else who’ll listen. Thanks Adam

  • http://twitter.com/mikemost mike mostransky

    great post, big truth – “Note to these companies: we’re in a new world. The consumer is now empowered, so deal with it.”

    I’m one to seek out a twitter acct for brand, see how it is used and then depending on my customer experience tweet and see if I have a new “social” customer service experience.  Sometimes I get resolution, sometimes I don’t even get a reply.  Some very large brands in there that get it and others that have the social accts like twitter and are merely broadcasting and not replying… you don’t even know if they are listening.

    • http://www.ioncorporation.com/blog markivey

      Good pts, and summary is spot on “you don’t even know if they are listening.” Thanks for the comments

  • http://twitter.com/mikemost mike mostransky

    great post, big truth – “Note to these companies: we’re in a new world. The consumer is now empowered, so deal with it.”

    I’m one to seek out a twitter acct for brand, see how it is used and then depending on my customer experience tweet and see if I have a new “social” customer service experience.  Sometimes I get resolution, sometimes I don’t even get a reply.  Some very large brands in there that get it and others that have the social accts like twitter and are merely broadcasting and not replying… you don’t even know if they are listening.

    • http://www.ioncorporation.com/blog markivey

      Good pts, and summary is spot on “you don’t even know if they are listening.” Thanks for the comments

  • http://cherilynnstone.com/blog/is-your-blog-linked-to-your-social-media-platforms Cherilynn Stone

    Excellent points.  I love the concept of using negative comments to connect with customers.  As a teacher of social media strategies to businesses and entrepreneurs, I am continually finding ways to drive these concepts home.  Great job.

  • http://cherilynnstone.com/blog/is-your-blog-linked-to-your-social-media-platforms Cherilynn Stone

    Excellent points.  I love the concept of using negative comments to connect with customers.  As a teacher of social media strategies to businesses and entrepreneurs, I am continually finding ways to drive these concepts home.  Great job.

  • http://www.online-business-virtual-assistant.com/ Virtual Business Assistant

    Great post and really informative tips. Thanks for the share. Social media is a great way to get connected with people.

  • http://www.online-business-virtual-assistant.com/ Virtual Business Assistant

    Great post and really informative tips. Thanks for the share. Social media is a great way to get connected with people.

  • http://www.socialmarketingdynamics.com/ Sydney @ Social Dynamics

    That’s a great example of exemplary customer service. I think big companies can do this too if only they have a specific platform and people tuned in their social engagement.

  • http://www.socialmarketingdynamics.com/ Sydney @ Social Dynamics

    That’s a great example of exemplary customer service. I think big companies can do this too if only they have a specific platform and people tuned in their social engagement.

  • http://www.weboutsourcing-gateway.com/ WOG

    I like it when you said that Social Media is a marathon not a sprint. Social Media most especially Social Networking Sites are not here not just to let be informed. Businesses should utilize it in a more valuable way– relate and take care of their customers. Anyway this is for their corporate branding.

  • http://www.weboutsourcing-gateway.com/ WOG

    I like it when you said that Social Media is a marathon not a sprint. Social Media most especially Social Networking Sites are not here not just to let be informed. Businesses should utilize it in a more valuable way– relate and take care of their customers. Anyway this is for their corporate branding.

  • http://www.blurbpoint.com/link-building-services.php Link Building Services

    As one has the positivism in all thing then , he/she can find the negativity also one way to get attention. But when get anything negative then turn it into positive response is the prior responsibility. And same strategy for the social media, that try to satisfy the unsatisfied people and get the best result.

  • http://www.blurbpoint.com/link-building-services.php Link Building Services

    As one has the positivism in all thing then , he/she can find the negativity also one way to get attention. But when get anything negative then turn it into positive response is the prior responsibility. And same strategy for the social media, that try to satisfy the unsatisfied people and get the best result.

  • Web design London

    Really this is informative tips.social media is the great way to get connected with people.Thanks for sharing this great stuff.

  • Web design London

    Really this is informative tips.social media is the great way to get connected with people.Thanks for sharing this great stuff.

  • http://www.grmwebsite.com Emily

    Pete has the idea. The first thing that consumers do these days before investing in something (ESPECIALLY a service) is Google them and look for reviews. The fact that Pete knew this an harnessed the power of a positive review just shows the power that the internet holds. Addressing consumer concerns and establishing your company as an expert in your field is the best way to use social media to your advantage. Thanks for this post! 

  • http://www.grmwebsite.com Emily

    Pete has the idea. The first thing that consumers do these days before investing in something (ESPECIALLY a service) is Google them and look for reviews. The fact that Pete knew this an harnessed the power of a positive review just shows the power that the internet holds. Addressing consumer concerns and establishing your company as an expert in your field is the best way to use social media to your advantage. Thanks for this post! 

  • http://jennaj452.wordpress.com/ Jenna Wendell

    I really like Jay Baer’s comment, “turning lemons into lemonade.” I think social media enables companies to improve their products, learn from their mistakes and engage with their consumers. I do not understand why some companies choose to refrain from practicing social media, even when research shows that it helps build brands. However, when companies do participate in social media, I believe they should commit to using it and consistently engage with customers. Such as, responding to your negative tweets.

  • http://jennaj452.wordpress.com/ Jenna Wendell

    I really like Jay Baer’s comment, “turning lemons into lemonade.” I think social media enables companies to improve their products, learn from their mistakes and engage with their consumers. I do not understand why some companies choose to refrain from practicing social media, even when research shows that it helps build brands. However, when companies do participate in social media, I believe they should commit to using it and consistently engage with customers. Such as, responding to your negative tweets.

  • http://www.searchandmore.co.uk Jason Walker

    You talk about responding and commenting, but as a race we only complain and don’t praise – so mostly negative comments and very few positives to come when people can actually be bothered to answer.

  • http://www.searchandmore.co.uk Jason Walker

    You talk about responding and commenting, but as a race we only complain and don’t praise – so mostly negative comments and very few positives to come when people can actually be bothered to answer.

  • Pingback: Lessons of the Exterminator: Transforming Your Social Media, One Customer at a Time - Digital Home Info

  • Pingback: How to Handle Negative Feedback on Facebook: 5 Tips | Startup Ratings: New Business Directory

  • Pingback: Social Media Crisis: How To Deal With Negative Feedback - Locker Partner - Disruptive Social Media and Music Management

  • Pingback: How to Move Consumers to the Purchase

  • http://www.adsyou.com/ شقق للبيع في الاردن

    The fact that Pete knew this an harnessed the power of a positive review just shows the power that the internet holds.

  • Sheamus Warior
  • Pingback: need for speed

  • Pingback: visit the next post

  • Pingback: On Taking Advice From Experts, Data And More « MindCorp | Newsfeed