January 2009

Take Back Tires, Get More Business!

Legend goes that a customer returned a set of tires to Nordstrom so the company took them back. And Nordstrom doesn’t even sell tires!

I don’t know if that customer eventually spent huge amounts of money at Nordstrom, but the point is a stellar service reputation is THE differentiation for your business and a business builder.

That’s especially true in this economy where terrific customer service will be the most affordable and powerful strategy for attracting, retaining and locking in customers now and for a lifetime.

What’s the reward? Maybe five sets of irons, five drivers, five putters, 240 dozen balls, 10 tee times or $25,000? That’s not a transaction; that’s a relationship, and great business.

Consider the truism that an angry customer tells seven people about his problem, but a happy customer will only tell three people. More powerfully to know is the social web amplifies customers’ ability to laud or lament your service.

Paul Gillin, author of Secrets of Social Media Marketing and The New Influencers, confirms that power:

“Customer service is your weakest link. Obtaining feedback takes time and attention. In the past, many businesses had the luxury of ignoring their customers. Feedback was relegated to call centers and satisfaction surveys.”

Now, you do that at your peril and you’ll be blasted into obscurity; fireworks will go off good or bad!

Gillin continues, “Today, almost nobody calls customer complaint lines. Customers take their problems directly to the web, whether through consumer advocacy sites like Consumerist.com, Ripoffreport.com, Mythreecents.com, Consumeraffairs.com, Planetfeedback.com and Yelp.com, or through their blogs and social networks. And people rate everything from golf courses, clubs demoed, resort food, carts, etc.”

Business Week reported these phenomena in a March 2008 cover story entitled, “Consumer Vigilantes,” which revealed “Customer angst sites are no longer just shouting your company sucks into the cyber darkness but acting as gathering spots for sharing call center secrets and troubleshooting tips.”

Consumerist editor, Ben Popken, sees his site’s role as “empower[ing] consumers by informing and entertaining them about the top consumer issues of the day.”

The payoff? Consumerist was getting 15 million unique visitors monthly in early 2008, and it has bested the venerable Consumer Reports in audience, according to web metric site Alexa.com. Consumerist is closely watched by MSM outlets; reported on in The New York Times and Wall Street Journal, from 114 – 381 times. And social media bookmarking sites like Digg.com cited Consumerist 34,000 times and counting.

This indicates what’s important in customer relations: “Your frontline employees are increasingly the most important link between you and your customers.”

Remember, your online ad could appear next to a consumer complaint about your club, service or demo day. So, what can you do? Here are five ideas:

Observe and Listen
Subscribe to and begin monitoring these sites and blogs for complaints and comments about you and competitive brands and organizations.

Respond and React
Create a simple and smart system to respond and react to complaints or comments.

Empower the Frontliners
Establish blogging and response guidelines for your frontline team so they can listen and respond promptly and credibly.

Evaluate the Responses; Improve Your Business
Use these comments and complaints to improve and enhance your business, products and services.

Begin the conversation
Take these comments as a springboard to begin the much needed conversation to build brand credibility and loyalty.

So, in this customer-empowered social media world, you must think relationship, not transaction. Why? Because your customer has less time and fewer dollars to spend. And trust me, there is a competitor out there, working hard to capture your market share.

Your edge IS exceptional customer service. Plus, you can gain $25,000 in business!

Now do you see why you take back tires? You can reinforce your reputation, create brand loyalty, and build brand awareness amongst millions. All thanks to the social web. It’s that simple and powerful.

 
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