Maybe the big guys can get away with it, but small businesses and entrepreneurs can’t: social media is a critical tool for customer service. Ignoring customers, arguing with them and generally not using social media as a customer service channel can hinder small businesses. Here are examples of business-to-consumer (B2C) companies who are doing it wrong and what entrepreneurs and small businesses can learn from them.
Deleting posts they don’t like.
Clothing manufacturer Elizabeth & Clarke recently released the names of the shirts in its winter collection – and one of the shirts is named after a controversial politician. Rather than responding to the customers who are understandably angry that they would name a shirt after a controversial politician who is not even stylish, Elizabeth & Clarke chose to delete the comments about the shirt’s name with no response.
The lesson: Leave all the posts on your Facebook page up, even negative ones. Just be sure to respond to them calmly, offering solutions and explanations. You may not agree with the customers, but remember that they are the ones keeping you in business.
Not responding to comments.
It’s Elizabeth & Clarke again, and this time, they didn’t respond to customer complaints regarding: the quality of their shirts (one customer posted a picture of one of their shirts via Twitter to demonstrate how the pocket of a tank top was coming off after two washings). Elizabeth & Clarke did not respond at all.
The lesson: Respond to ALL customers, even ones that are posting pictures of your merchandise with pens stuck through the holes in the clothing. Let them know what you’re doing to prevent that from ever happening again.
Arguing with customers.
East Longmeadow, Mass.-based physical therapy and fitness firm Attain Therapy + Fitness allowed one of their partners to respond to comments from clients who were understandably upset that fitness classes were cancelled in the West Springfield location with no notice. But instead of responding calmly, the partner began arguing with the clients.
The lesson: As much as it hurts, be conciliatory! If you’re making a change to your business model that affects your clients, be sympathetic. Don’t tell them it’s a business decision; that’s not what they care about, particularly if you laid off someone that they liked and respected. Arguing will just destroy any goodwill that is left.
Not communicating changes.
Attain Therapy + Fitness again wins in this category. When they made changes to their class schedule, they waited several days after the changes were in place before posting to their Facebook page – and didn’t post to Twitter at all. They then made yet another change, and didn’t post anything on Facebook or Twitter, period. Understandably, clients were upset.
The lesson: Facebook and Twitter are inexpensive, effective ways to communicate changes to clients. If you’re not sending out an email newsletter or regularly updating your website, posting to one of these platforms is the best way, short of making phone calls, to let customers and clients know that you’ve made changes that will affect them.
Ignoring social media.
There are plenty of companies that ignore social media and don’t use it to engage their customers. If you’re a B2C company, social media is where your customers are at, and you can do all sorts of interesting things with it: flash sales, coupons, posting content that your customers will find helpful. To list all the B2C small businesses in Western Massachusetts alone that ignore social media would take forever.
The lesson: Post! Spend an hour a week finding articles to link to on Facebook and Twitter; let your customers know when you’re having a sale; post exclusive Facebook coupons. Monitor your Twitter responses and Facebook page to respond to customers who are experiencing problems. Ignore social media at your own peril.