Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Social media customer service: Reward compliments, not complaints

Here's a thought for retailers and businesses of all kinds engaging in social media. A conventionally successful strategy is to respond promptly to customer complaints on Twitter and Facebook, to be seen publicly to be giving good customer service.

However, by doing this aren't we also rewarding negative behaviour? If a hundred friends see that a customer's complaint has been dealt with successfully, yes, they might raise their opinion of your business; but they might also actually be encouraged to complain more in the future, figuring that any loud whining - legitimate or not - is rewarded with better service or even valued compensation.

Maybe we should be rewarding customers who spread good news about your business, not bad. By all means continue dealing with genuine complaints well, but by also thanking customers who talk about good products or report a pleasurable transaction, you invoke a win-win situation; not only do you get a good review, but positive publicity as well.

I am thinking about taking this to the logical conclusion. A customer who complains loudly about a problem will get their issue fixed quickly and fairly; no more, no less. But a customer who raves positively and publicly about your business will be rewarded with bonus goods or services. This is advertising that you cannot simply buy. Not only is it cheap, it squarely reaches your target market, and is (ideally) seen as an honest and trustworthy recommendation.

Or is this bordering on the devious? Businesses have been caught before bribing prominent bloggers with goods or services in return for a good review; is this reward strategy as bad? I think it would be more open and morally legitimate, but let me know in the comments what you think.

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