Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The Internet: Customer Service Friend AND Foe

It used to be that customers relied on word-of-mouth to share their customer service experiences (good and bad). If it was really good or bad, a small segment of the population would sit down and write a letter. Nowadays it’s easy for customers to share their experiences and they are sharing!

From choosing an apartment to finding a washing machine repair to investigating my mortgage company, there are a number of sites, message boards and forums, devoted to chronicling the customer experience. 

Human nature says that people will share a bad experience much more often than they will a good one and that fact is backed up when I look at many customer-fueled sites. However, when reviewing customer responses, I keep a few things in mind.

Many negative reviewers are unnecessarily harsh. They blow one aspect of an overall good experience way out of proportion. I’ve read 2-star restaurant reviews that complain about slow service even though later in the review they reveal that food was good and the meal was comped. The anger comes from the fact that the whole bill wasn’t comped!

I’m also looking for a little balance. I’m concerned when there are no good reviews or experiences at all. I’m also weary when out of a litany of bad reviews, there are sparkling five-star reviews that acknowledge no imperfections or even hint at the slightest problem. Those are usually written by staff!

I also look for balance within a review. When a bad review acknowledges that at least the staff was friendly or the room was clean, is more likely to be accurate. Normally, there is a little good with the bad.

Details help as well. I had a horrible experience attempting to refinance my mortgage. When I went on line, I was shocked at what I found. There were several sites devoted to the horror this company had caused others. What was shocking was their level of detail … and the fact that the details of their experience mirrored mine!

Blogs, message boards, Facebook fan pages, Twitter, bad service gets out now faster than ever … and it isn’t always fair or accurate but it’s out there. Every customer contact has the ability to live in perpetuity in the Internet. Keep that in mind as you engage your customer.