Published on: June 9, 2011
by Kevin Coupe
Content Guy’s Note: Below is a commentary on the same subject as the video piece, but it isn’t word-for-word the same. You can look at both, or either...it is up to you. I look forward to hearing from you.
Hi, I’m Kevin Coupe and this is FaceTime with the Content Guy.
One of my favorite business quotes comes courtesy of Stew Leonard Sr., who used to say that the customer who complains is your best friend. First of all, that customer cares enough about your business to register the complaint - and that’s no small compliment. Second, it gives you a chance to go from doing something wrong to doing something right ... something you might not even have known about if there had not been a complaint.
I’m not sure that all businesses feel that way. We’ve all had experiences where we’ve complained - in person, on the phone, in a letter, via email - and we either get ignored or treated like we have some sort of disease. It is like the business is doing us a favor, rather than the other way around.
They may not be able to act that way anymore. At least, not if they’re smart and paying attention.
The New York Times reports about a new website called Gripe - that’s “G-r-i-dot-p-e” - that describes itself as a “Better Business Bureau for the Twitter age,” and says that its job is to remove the friction between the person doing the complaining and the company being complained about.
According to the story, “with a little typing, its users can send off a gripe, which goes to Facebook, Twitter and the named company’s customer service department. The company is invited to remedy the problem and remove the stain of the publicized gripe, earning a ‘cheer.’ Users can also send out a ‘cheer’ in the first place, to applaud customer service well done.”
In essence, this gives anyone with a complaint a megaphone, because they’re not just making their case to the company. They’re doing so on a stage, with an audience of potentially millions of people.
Now, some retailers think that this is all too much. “Social bullying,” they call it. And they have a point, because this website - and the many others like it that inevitably will spring up - do have the potential of giving specific consumers too much power, and specific complaints too much publicity.
But the sad reality is that there is almost nothing you can do about it.
Oh, wait. There is one thing. You can make customer service your number one priority, regardless of the segment in which you operate and the strategy behind the store you run. You can track all these complaints and respond to them quickly and effectively. You can be transparent about your own operations, engendering both respect and loyalty among the customers that do like you, which can have the effect of blunting any controversies that could affect you.
It isn’t a perfect system, and it isn’t a perfect world. But these are the realities with which we all have to cope, and it is better to know about them - and integrate them into your infrastructure and response mechanisms - than to do business in a vacuum of ignorance. Go down that road, and only bad things happen.
That’s what is on my mind this Thursday morning. As always, I want to know what is on your mind.
- KC's View: