Today’s guest post is from Thomas Aaron.  (He is the two legged creature in the picture at left).  He shares his perspectives on social media and customer service.

There seems to be a tipping point in the growth of most companies at which policies must be strictly adhered to in order to stop profit leakage. When this happens, customers are more likely to become numbers, and they are dealt with in a more adversarial, by-the-rules manner. There is nothing a consumer hates more than to have policies quoted when they are dissatisfied with a product or service.

Consumers often grudgingly tolerate poor customer service because of limited choices or lower prices. However, companies that fail their customers typically suffer for it. In the Yellow Pages age, dissatisfied customers had limited voice and influence. While they could bemoan their dissatisfaction to friends, coworkers and family members, bad reviews usually faded away fairly quickly.

In the Internet Age, it only takes a few dissatisfied customers to severely damage a company’s reputation. Social media such as Facebook, Twitter and blogging not only have revolutionized the way people communicate, they have made it possible for consumers to communicate with hundreds or thousands of people with minimal effort. Consumers now have power, and they are not afraid to use it – and their voices hang around on the Web for a very long time.

Businesses around the world are scrambling to to figure out how to either use social media to their benefit or protect themselves against it. But those who want to protect themselves are missing the point. Satisfying customers should be their highest priority. By doing so, most of the negative reviews could be avoided in the first place, and the ones that could not be avoided would be buried under positive reviews.

Large corporations often rely on well-funded PR departments and reputation management firms to heal their wounds. However, small businesses typically do not have such options. Instead, they have to rely on preventing poor reviews in the first place by communicating with customers and fixing their problems. Frankly, that is the way it should be.

For most small businesses, finding customers, keeping them and generating referrals is life. Failure to do any of these is sudden and painful death. The trick to doing all three is exemplary customer service.
The truth is, when you peel away all the layers of goals, tactics and objectives, the essence of good customer service is distilled into a single element: caring. It is that simple.

If you sincerely care about your customers, it transforms the way you conduct yourself and your business, and it impacts the development and implementation of your policies. Customers can sense it when you truly want the best for them, and they will choose you over your competitors. If your customer feels you care about them, they will come back to you  the next time they need your offerings, and they will enthusiastically refer you to their friends.

But beware, you cannot fake caring. Sooner or later insincerity becomes evident, and your customers will not hesitate to leave you for a competitor who walks the talk. While the customer is not always right, you should always treat them them like solid gold. If the tables were turned, how would you want to be treated?


boy and dog
Thomas Aaron is a certified dog trainer and a Full Member of the Association of Pet Dog Trainers (APDT). He is the owner of FetchMasters, LLC, a Denver-based in-your-home dog training service. Tom specializes in canine obedience training and behavior modification, and blogs regularly on issues pertaining to dog training.