According to my Blip loving, Pandora-jockeying, XM radio freak friends, listening to good old fashioned FM radio in the morning means that I’m woefully out of touch with technology. Apparently, I’m just moments away from packing a suitcase of elastic waist pants and Metamucil and moving to Boca. But I don’t care, I love my morning show. It’s the perfect bite size portion of weather, headlines, inoffensive top 40 music, and charming banter that’s just witty enough to perk up my brain before 7 am. Well, it was that way, until my favorite DJ disappeared.
The male half of a he said/she said variety duo, Mr. Morning DJ went on vacation a few months ago- or so I thought. At first, that really did seem like the case. They mentioned his name regularly, and Ms. Morning DJ would say things like “filling in while Mr. Morning DJ is on vacation”. But slowly, those last traces slipped away. All of the sudden, they stopped mentioning his existence all together, and eventually snuck “Mr. Replacement DJ” into his slot. It was tragic. I Googled frantically looking for the answer. I searched their website for traces of the truth, but all my searches came up empty. I had only one option left- Facebook.
With pretty much everybody throwing down in the social media arena these days, a Facebook fan page is pretty much par for the course. But was anyone actually monitoring it? It’s all well and good to have one, but if no one is manning the controls, it can actually do more harm than good. An unhappy customer + a comatose Facebook page= a recipe for your business to wind up on The Consumerist (probably not exactly the high profile media coverage you’re looking for).
The Internet has made us into a real time culture. If you can’t be responsive and timely, then you can’t benefit from social media. It’s as simple as that. That said, it takes far more than just a simple response to knock the social media ball out of the park.
But back to our story…
When last you saw me, I was toting my best bundle of snark and agitation over to my favorite radio station’s Facebook page. While there, I wrote a brief but accusation and anger heavy comment regarding the disappearance of my favorite DJ and my distaste for his sub-standard replacement. It wasn’t even a direct message, just a grouchy wall post airing my frustrations, and I assumed that would be the end of it.
Unfortunately, as Americans we have become conditioned to expect crappy customer service. When we shoot a grievance out into the universe, we assume at best an auto-response, form letter, or some sort of recorded prompt nightmare. But not this time. Less than an hour after I posted my rage on their Facebook page, I received a direct message from a station employee addressing my concerns.
P #1- Promptness
If you owned a restaurant and a small fire started in your kitchen, how long would you wait before putting it out? Many small business owners don’t realize that a customer complaint is really just a stray spark, waiting to burn their business to the ground. When caught right away, it probably won’t even set off the smoke alarm. But left unattended, it could do some very serious damage.
As I said before, for better or worse, our society has become one that demands instant gratification. And with the social media monster, if our pleas for service/attention are not answered immediately, we have a multitude of outlets through which we can start a virtual lynch mob. No business wants to have an “I hate ______” Facebook group started about them, but if they were just quicker on the draw with their service/apologies/refunds/coupons, then they wouldn’t be putting themselves at risk. A company that lets an angry email fester for more than a few days is basically saying that they don’t care about their customers.
P #2- Personalization
I am fairly certain that I was not the only one to complain about having my favorite DJ ripped from my life, and it would have been very easy for the station to have made a boilerplate letter to send out to any disgruntled parties. But again, they exceeded the norm. I got a lengthy and personalized response that both acknowledged my specific concerns as being valid and apologized for the disruption. I wasn’t just an annoying mosquito they were trying to bat away, I was a real person who had raised an issue worth addressing on a personal level.
Everyone wants to be heard and treated with respect, and social media gives people the opportunity to connect with brands in a way that was previously unavailable to them. Don’t be fooled into thinking that your automated system can take care of it for you. A form letter or auto-response is just as big of a brush-off as no response at all.
P #3- Positivity
I think what surprised me most about the response from my radio station was how upbeat it was. I’m sure when somebody calls your company a colorful array of 4-letter words (or their new morning DJ “a boring, humorless downgrade”), it’s easy to get defensive and try to put them in their place. The letter dealt directly with my issue, but it was also really nice! It would have been quite easy for them to throw down a few icy retorts, but they held their tongue and treated me with a kindness and empathy that I probably didn’t deserve.
It’s not enough for people to like what you make or do, they have to like you and what you stand for. Companies and brands have personalities, and gaining a reputation for being the schoolyard bitch means that regardless of the quality of your product or service, potential clients could be steering clear based solely on the angry buzzing of the social media hive.
P #4- Persistence
Feeling inspired by the open and inviting communication, I decided to shoot back a response and see what happened. My tone was much kinder this time around, but still insistent that the new morning guy totally sucked. Again, I got a quick reply.
I was sort of shocked. They could have easily been satisfied with the initial exchange and felt like they’d done their “social media duty”, but instead, they went the extra mile to make sure that my questions were answered and my needs were met.
There’s a reason that people are willing to pay full price for shoes at Zappos. One of the cornerstones of their legendary customer service is keeping the channels of communication open to assure their patrons that no matter what happens, they will always be there to kiss it and make it better. Their contact number isn’t buried 5 pages deep on their website, it’s front and center as a beacon to distressed shoppers, letting them know that it’s absolutely okay to call. It isn’t their priority to put out fires, it’s their priority to make sure that fires never start. And as a result, they have extraordinary customer devotion and retention.
But you don’t need a call center and a team of hundreds to give your clients that same feeling of safety and importance. You just have to make sure that you are available and responsive, and that your Facebook, Twitter, and blog are working tools and not neglected afterthoughts.
You know, I still don’t love Mr. Replacement DJ (although he is growing on me a little), but I am still listening to my favorite station because they took the time me a priority, and that means something to me. Social media isn’t a one sided proposition. Giving the customer greater access to your brand may create more work for you in the short term, but it also gives you increased opportunity to generate unshakable brand loyalty with positive and personalized experiences.
Alexandra Munier is a commercial real estate office manager by day, and manic blogger and Twitter geek by night. She can be found chronicling her monetary misadventures over at Broke207, and is also a contributing writer at Part Time Vagabond and the Goodwill of Northern New England blog. You can also feel free to harass her on Twitter or Facebook.
Photo credit: Alex Kuepper