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Is the customer always right?

Guest blog by David Kreitzer

We all know the popular adage, “The customer is always right.” For some companies, this is a great piece of wisdom to live by, but when dealing with customer feedback on social media sites, things are a little more nuanced. Amazon founder and CEO, Jeff Bezos, has said of online customer service, “If you make customers unhappy in the physical world, they might each tell six friends. If you make customers unhappy on the Internet, they can each tell 6,000.”

A customer service-related slip up on social media doesn’t mean just one unhappy customer; it could mean a very public social media mishap. This broader audience holds a lot of power over your reputation so it’s important to act authentically. Even though most customer service training has probably taught otherwise, the customer actually is not always right. Don’t be afraid to apologize on social media, but do so graciously and without simply accepting all accusations of fault.

One of the key ingredients of a great social media presence is consistency. In fact, this is one of the reasons why Main Street Hub provides clients with a single point of contact. If you craft a consistent voice, you’ll show that you’re credible. If you check in with your staff members about an incident instead of just throwing them under the bus, both your employees and your customers will see that you’re interested in setting the record straight, while also protecting both groups.

When Bezos apologized for the 2009 Amazon mishap that remotely erased the books “1984” and “Animal Farm” from users’ Kindles, he took a firm stance. He apologized by taking responsibility for the slip up and also promised not to let decisions like this be made in the future. “We will use the scar tissue from this painful mistake to help make better decisions going forward, ones that match our mission,” said Bezos. His sincere response elicited even greater customer loyalty from many of those who had been outraged just a few days before.

His apology showed his strength in leadership and restored customers’ faith in the company as a customer-focused business. By making a very humane apology, Bezos erased fears that Amazon was turning into a faceless corporation capable of Big Brother-like decisions.

Of course, not all situations are as clear-cut as this, and on social media it sometimes comes down to “he said, she said” with no obvious correct answer. It’s important not to fall back on the crutch of, “The customer is always right.” Apologize for the inconvenience, but keep it vague. Don’t openly say, “I’m sorry the store employee was rude to you,” if you’re not positive it’s true. A simple, “I’m so sorry you had a bad experience,” will show the customer that you care about their interaction with your store. Be sure to point out that the incident isn’t reflective of your typical service and always promise to do better next time.

Sincerely show that you’ll do everything it takes to prevent similar situations in the future, and you can often regain customers who may have boycotted your business just moments before. And better yet, you can remedy the situation without compromising the reputation of your business or your employees to future potential customers who may read the review. Great customer service requires more than just catering to the customer’s interests. It takes a leader who is willing to seek out the truth and genuinely improve relationships between a local business and its customers.

David Kreitzer, is VP, marketing with Main Street Hub, the “do-it-for-you” marketing platform for local businesses.

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