And lo and behold - they're talking about you! And as GI Joe reminded us, knowing is half the battle.
But Now What??
Prepare for Action
First, be sure you have the tools in place for great content and conversation. Do you have:
- A great website or blog to send people to for information and valuable, relevant and timely content?
- An easy way for people to contact you? Think multiple channels like phone, email, and instant messaging. Or extend your ears and try Twitter or Plurk.
- Excitement, an open mind, and enthusiasm for what social media can do for you? If you're not enjoying the interaction people will know.
- Resources at the ready to answer questions, troubleshoot, or provide additional information to your community?
There's nothing more gratifying than to hear that you're doing a great job. Your customers and clients are delighted, and they'd recommend you to anyone needing what you offer. How to respond?
- Say thank you. Post a blog comment, send an email, drop a personal handwritten note.
- Ask for more details about their experience, and how they found you. Find out what they liked best, and commit to doing more of it.
- Hand over your contact information and make a personal connection. Offer to be a direct contact for them or offer up someone in your company that can take good care of them and make sure they continue to be happy.
- Engage them as an insider. How can you get them connected to your company and encourage them to go from a happy customer to an evangelist?
Uh oh. They're criticizing your product, trashing your customer service. What they're saying isn't at all what you'd hoped to hear. Ignoring it isn't the right answer, so where to start?
- Apologize. Good old fashioned "I'm sorry we disappointed you" can be a great start to a constructive dialogue. Take the conversation to a more personal forum like email if that's what makes sense.
- Ask what went wrong, and how it could have been a better experience for them.
- If you have a solution at the ready, offer it. No solution yet? Explain what next steps you're going to take to come to a resolution. And follow up.
- Don't be defensive. Nothing kills trust faster.
- Be creative. What about having a negative reviewer be part of your next product innovation brainstorm? It's not for the faint of heart, but it can be a gold mine of new perspectives.
- Say thank you. Just as important as when they say something nice. Thank them for sharing their experience, and caring enough to be angry. It's a great opportunity for you to learn.
This one is tricky. They're talking, but it's a solid "maybe" as to whether they'd do business with you again. They're not mad, but they're not overjoyed, either. Is it still worth interacting? I think so.
- Ask them what would have taken their experience from so-so to great. You may just have an "a-ha" moment that makes you even better at what you do.
- Invite them to continue the dialogue and share more detail. You've started the connection, and you can help it prosper.
- Tell your story. "Eh" might just become "oh!".
- Say thank you for their feedback. (Notice a theme here?)
Look who's talking!
I'd love to hear more about companies that are making the most of their online conversations. Let everyone know who deserves some kudos, and share your stories in the comments.