Social Media Gives Customers Power To Make or Break. R U Listening?

In the days before social media, good news traveled fast, bad news
travelled faster.  Today, good news still travels fast but bad news
travels … let’s just say word-of-mouth advertising has become world-of-
mouth on steroids. For those businesses still relying on customer
comment cards and surveys to monitor customer satisfaction, that
strategy is as anachronistic as sending an urgent message by telegraph.

In this post, the final installment of my Hard Rock Café customer service saga, I’ll repeat two of the five lessons that
far too few businesses appreciate.  One is an old message that I’ve
paraphrased:  “Hell hath no fury like an upset customer scorned.” The
second lesson is really a corollary to the first, don’t underestimate
the power of social media. 

If you’ve been following my story, I was up to the part where we
confronted a manager at the Hard Rock Café in Atlantic City about how
she handled the attempted theft of my wife’s purse.

Hard-Rock-post
I sensed as she walked away that she felt satisfied in the way she
handled the situation. Unfortunately we were not.  She obviously didn’t
appreciate the power of social media and with that naiveté fully
underestimated the damage that can be done by “an upset customer
scorned.”

Immediately upon our return home, my wife told her story on Facebook.
Within minutes, she received comments from nearly a dozen friends, who
likely shared the story on the walls of their friends.  That’s the power
of negative word-of-mouth advertising and follows closely the rule of
thumb that one unhappy customer tells 13 others.

While effective, that’s naïve and 20th century thinking.  If you
haven’t accepted the new reality, let me be the first to break the
news.  If you are in business and you have customers, you better be
listening all the time and ready to respond promptly because “hell that
no fury like a customer scorned.”

My wife suggested that I compose a letter to Hard Rock’s management
“because I write so well.” But no way was a letter going to get Hard
Rock’s attention.  Instead I went straight to Facebook and posted our
complaint on Hard Rock Café’s wall
The audience: I reached nearly 1.7 million people just on Hard Rock’s
page alone with a few keystrokes! And that’s just the tip of the
iceberg. Because a Facebook business profile is visible to non-Facebook
subscribers, the potential reach is hundreds of millions of people. 
That’s a far cry from one person telling 13.  What’s more troubling for a
business like Hard Rock when a customer wants to broadcast his bad
experience?  What happens on the Internet stays on the Internet.  With a
letter or email, the complaint gets sealed far away from the maddened
crowd.

At this point, many owners and executives might be savoring their
decision to ignore Facebook and the like in order to avoid receiving
negative comments.  Not only is that just plain dumb, it will come back
to bite them big time. 

Had Hard Rock Café not had a Facebook page, I would have gone
straight to one of their competitors and posted my experience on their
walls.  Don’t believe me. Do a search on Facebook and read how
dissatisfied Toyota customers reacted after they were ignored for weeks
after the gas pedal incident a few months ago.

Next I would have visited Yelp,
a social networking site that allows consumers to share the experiences
they’ve had with local businesses.  The potential damage?  Yelp is the
49th most popular website in the United States.  Or I could have posted
our bad experience on Yahoo Travel, the 3rd most popular site in the U.S. and 4th most trafficked site in the world (according to Alexa).

Hard Rock is lucky too that I’m not 30 years younger. While quite
adept at navigating the digital world, my mindset is still framed in a
Baby Boomer world. Had I been a digital native, a Millennial raised when
PCs and the Internet were mainstream, I likely would have been writing
on Hard Rock Café’s wall from the restaurant, not my office 100 miles
away over 24 hours later.  Young adults are conditioned to text quickly
and share instantly. It’s part of their DNA. They share opinions freely
and use social networking in interesting ways. They … and their
technologies… are changing the face of customer service.

Are you getting the picture?  It doesn’t matter whether your business
has created a social media marketing strategy or not.  If you haven’t
done it intentionally, your customers and competitors are likely doing
it for you.  Do a quick search about your business, your products, and
your industry and you will find conversations about you somewhere on the
Internet using one of the hundreds of social media sites available to
anyone at anytime. No news is not good news anymore. If you aren’t
hearing your customers talking, you’re just not listening.

But I digress.  I posted my comment about Hard
Rock on Facebook at 9:12 AM. By 9:55 AM, I received a comment from the
Hard Rock. Now that’s good service.
 
I accepted their invitation
to “friend” them and within a few hours received a lengthy and sincere
apology from the assistant manager.  What grabbed my attention was that
our situation was being used as a training exercise for their managers
and staff.  Management got it right even if the manager on duty didn’t.
It wasn’t only my wife’s purse and personal belongings at stake that
night…but our safety and comfort along with all the other customers.

The manager and I exchanged a few private messages. I then received a
personal call from the assistant manager.  While a few words and gift
cards don’t erase the bad experience from our memory, Hard Rock Café’s
customer service recovery plan, which obviously includes social media
monitoring, stopped further damage in its track.

In fact, they might have turned lemons into lemonade for some folks.
In a world where bad customer service is the norm, a good recovery story
creates good will.  If nothing else, a response to a complaint with
some attempt to resolve it shows your customers that you are listening. 
And listening to customers is a proven way to retain over 80 percent of
your customers.  I’m not sure we’ll go out of our way to visit another
Hard Rock but we certainly won’t avoid it either.

For companies dependent on loyal customers of all ages, social media
is shaking up how consumers make decisions and how technology announces
them. All of this can create tremendous business stress as well as value
when organizations use it effectively.

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