Retail Ideas



March 10, 2010

Consumer opinions. Good ones? You love them. Bad but balanced? Hate to see them, but try to listen and learn, right? But, when they’re both bad AND unfair? They make you boiling mad and defensive!Why? Because you know you did all you could to help solve their issue. Your people went above and beyond the call of duty and handled the customer with respect, care and kindness. You bent your normal store policies for them.

And, yet, they are still unhappy! Why? They didn’t get what they wanted.

In the past, you knew this customer was one that, unfortunately (but not for lack of trying) might be one of the few that was going to be (at least for a while) unhappy with your store. What could they do to REALLY hurt your business? They could talk about their unhappiness with their friends over a meal, they could write the Better Business Bureau, they could go on TV.

In my 20 years of retail, no matter how unhappy a customer was with a store where I worked, I never saw one of them - even after much threatening to do so - go to the BBB or to the local TV station. I even saw that, when they calmed down over time, they came back and bought again!

Today, though, it is a completely different story for retailers. Now, this very unhappy and frustrated and unfair customer can do more damage to your business in 1 day than you ever thought possible. How?

Through using social media.

I hear you saying, ” Come on, Leslie, how are they really going to hurt my overall business - even if they’re really angry and use social media to tell their friends?”

Here’s the answer: Google.

Google indexes in REAL TIME now, Facebook Page comments and Twitter. Real time, not 3 months after the comment is made, but real time. Those negative comments index permanently. You can’t get rid of them.

Google also has decided (much to the chagrin of many retailers) that negative opinions about your store or product are important to consumers typing in the keywords of what they are searching for and so, if you don’t have a strategy in place to move those negative opinions down to the second page of organic Google search results (and this can be done, by the way) , ANY negative opinions about your store or the products you carry will be on the first page of Google organic search results when consumers are searching for what you have to sell.

No matter how true. No matter how untrue. No matter how unfair. No matter how old. YIKES!

What’s a retailer to do? Call me. No, seriously, this is a MAJOR issue, a new paradigm and calls for three things:

1. You must train your staff on how media that is free and social has given all of the power of your brand’s equity over to the consumer. (I know this makes a lot of people upset and angry, but it’s already happened and it’s not something anyone of us can stop. It is a given.)

2. You must re-align your customer service completely around the customer and not think of it as a “cost center to be managed.” It is not this anymore. It is now a significant revenue center for your business - if your unhappy (and unfair) customers are so well treated that they become advocates - online and offline - for your brand and tell their friends about it.

3. The strategic building of your online reputation.

There is NOTHING as powerful for your brand as a customer who in their heart of hearts knows they have lied to you, taken advantage of your normal policies and treated you unfairly online to get their way, but then gets what they want. It is just this “unfair” customer who will end up being your biggest brand ambassador and will generate more revenue for you through word of mouth than you ever could have “saved” by not caving in.

Will you know this customer has done this for you? Not necessarily. Will you know if they’re still unhappy? Ask Google.