There is no such thing as bad publicity – except when it’s your customer experience

Oscar Wilde famously once said: “There is only one thing in life worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about.” The implication was that being in the spotlight is always a good thing, no matter what the context. People take note, start to talk about you and raise your profile with potential benefits to be realised in the future.

This idea is supported by a long list of individuals who despite never making any contribution to science, philanthropy, history or the arts, have thrust greatness upon themselves and remain front and centre in the media. It is this relentless media obsession that gives value to their very existence and apparently makes them desirable in some quarters of business and society.

Wilde’s aphorism may have been true for the circles in which he moved, but in the modern business era of customer experience management ‘being talked about’ demands the sentiment of the dialogue to be positive if it is going to be beneficial to the organisation concerned.

I was struck this week to read that a US retailer had tried to back out of a rather embarrassing Twitter gaffe by explaining the abrupt and sarcastic reply posted by one of its employees as a stunt to gain publicity.

This thinly veiled explanation followed a customer complaint, which was handled without compassion, empathy or common sense. The retailers post was soon taken down in an attempt to avoid bad publicity but before that could happen a screen shot was taken by another Twitter user who had seen the earlier rude response and subsequently shared the conversation; of course it soon went viral. Nothing can ever be deleted on the social networks today.

The benefits of first-rate customer service are clear  and include a loyal customer base who will recommend your business to others in their peer network, perpetuating new opportunities to broaden the products your existing customers hold, driving revenue, increasing market share and differentiating you from the competition.

The first of those benefits is powerful and evidence shows that recommendation is a proven model to increase customer acquisition with very little associated cost.  However, it is important to recognise a particular aspect to the human/customer psyche, which is that we tell more than twice the number of people about a bad experience compared to a good experience.  Your business therefore has to work twice as hard to give good experiences if you want the net effect to be positive for your organisation.

Therefore the careful handling and empathy needed to recognise and respond appropriately to the sentiment surrounding customer complaints is critical. Remedial action that falls short of your customer’s expectations today will see them defect while telling double the amount of people about their experience than yesterday’s happy customer will about theirs.

For business there is certainly one thing in life that is much worse than not being talked about and that is when your organisation has failed to respond appropriately to an individual whose customer experience has been found lacking.

Remediation activity is not the arena to test new customer interaction strategies, as loosely claimed by the US retailer – hardly a shock. But what may shock you is that without first-rate customer experience and in particular the right platforms, processes and people supporting your social media customer care programme, you may also become the victim of the power of the channel to highlight those businesses that fall short of the mark.

complaint dept

Photo by Tamara licensed under Creative Commons

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