Saturday, January 2, 2016

Somebody Doesn't Like You

I’ve been encouraging every modular home factory and modular builder to have at least one social media page. Most of you have chosen Facebook which is probably where most of your potential buyers visit.

Social media is a powerful tool for your business. It helps you connect, engage, and establish trust with current and prospective customers, increase brand awareness, website traffic and ultimately increase sales.

But what happens when something goes awry and negative comments start popping up on your brand’s Facebook page or Twitter feed?  

How would you address this?

There are 5 main ways to respond to negative comments each with varying problems:

1. Ignore them:  The ‘Head in the Sand’ approach.  If you don’t reply to the comments, maybe they’ll just go away.  If a past or current customer has a complaint, has called or emailed you, would you ignore him?  No way!  So why would you believe it’s okay to ignore complaints lodged on social networks?  The unfortunate fact is that it happens and you never know if someone was ready to call you for an appointment and now they decided against it.

2. Delete them:  The ‘If No One Sees It, It Didn’t Happen’ approach.  The only thing worse than ignoring a negative comment is deleting it.  It only serves to anger the person more and give them cause to react by telling ALL of their social media friends how awful your company is.  It’s important to note that the average Facebook and Twitter user has 100+ friends and followers, so a complaint from one or even a few customers grows exponentially, costing you customers you didn’t even have yet.

3. Respond in kind:  The ‘I’ll show you!’ approach.  Let’s say a customer leaves an angry complaint on your company’s Facebook page or Twitter feed. You feel the complaint is unjustified or, for whatever reason, it makes you angry and you can’t help but respond with an angry or defensive comment.  Just as with the first two approaches, your response will only serve to exacerbate an already negative situation. Remember the old adage: The customer is always right – no matter how wrong he is!  Also, remember that the complaining customer is not the only person who will be privy to this exchange.

4. Placate with a hollow apology: The ‘Gosh, Sorry You Feel That Way. We’ll Try To Do Better.’ approach.  The problem with this response is that it doesn’t appear to be sincere, nor does it offer a real solution to the complaint, which, again, only serves to exacerbate the situation. People are aware when they are being appeased. Most importantly, this approach offers no solution to the problem and the customer may not  give you a second chance.

Builders make these mistakes all the time, especially when there are multiple complaints. They ignored, deleted, and placated – all while continuing to build homes and never truly addressing the people’s real problem.  You may have responded to a few complaints by asking the customers to call or email you.  Then for days afterward, there are more complaints posted about not being able to get through by phone and getting no email response.  How can you possibly believe this would have a positive outcome?

So what should you have done instead?

5. Offer an apology AND a solution:  The ‘We Hear You and Value Our Customers. We Will Make This Right Immediately!’ approach This is your opportunity to turn a disgruntled customer into your company’s evangelist!  This person (or people) obviously had some sense of loyalty to your company if they’ve already bought a house from you, “liked” your Facebook fan page, and/or followed you on Twitter.  Now, however, they’ve had an unpleasant experience and usually they just want to know that they’ve been listened to and that you will make things right.

I think sometimes modular factories and builders forget that handling complaints via social networks are the same as dealing with them face-to-face (only with higher stakes).  If a customer were standing in front of you with a complaint, you’d never ignore them, walk away from them, or simply apologize without offering a resolution. So why would that approach be acceptable via social media? Answer: It’s not!

When you deal with complaints effectively, disgruntled customers will tell their friends how awesome your company is and what great customer service you offer. And they’ll encourage their friends to buy their next home from you.  They have now become an evangelist for your company.  

Talk about powerful (and free) marketing!

Just remember that no matter how fantastic your company is, mistakes happen, customers get upset and complain.  With the growth of social media they now expect to be able to lodge these complaints – and get resolutions – via social networks. Think of it as an opportunity to prove how awesome your company is – or not.  It’s your choice.

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