The New York Times asked B&H Photo’s social media coordinator Henry Posner for advice for the business owner struggling to build a great online reputation. A great read, especially for hotel marketers.

1) If a customer complains, confirm, confess and correct:

“When customers go online and complain, the first thing I do is research what happened. I don’t open my mouth online until I have the facts. If the customer is right, I apologize immediately, and I ask what I can do as a gesture of my concern. I’m always willing to be generous when I’m wrong, and most customers are looking for something modest.”

2. If you’re not at fault, calmly make your case:

“I’m always honest with the customer, and that includes defending myself and the store if we’re right. I disagree 18,000 percent with the saying that the customer is always right — not in retail, he’s not. If he’s wrong, I explain why, speaking with confidence and authority but without being hostile or aggressive. There’s nothing I can say online or even by e-mail that’s just between me and the customer — I’m really talking to everyone who ends up reading or chatting about it. Even if the customer is terribly misguided or purposely malicious, I believe he deserves a cogent, mature response. If a dissatisfied customer’s emotions get the better of him, I just stop and wait for someone else who’s following the conversation out there to jump in to tell the customer to tone things down and refocus. It’s not that no one ever gets to me — I might mumble something while I’m typing, and sometimes I even jump out of my chair and blow off a little steam here. But I don’t put it out there.”

3. Go the extra mile for a trying customer, but not the extra hundred miles:

“You just can’t please everyone, you learn that here quickly. One customer will complain that our deliveries require someone to be home to sign for the package, and the next customer will thank you for it. In every business there are customers that make themselves expensive to service, someone who wants too low a price, or too much special attention. Every company has to decide what the threshold is for keeping these customers. Sometimes I have a frank conversation with a customer. I say, ‘This is how far I can go to help you. Now, are you going to help me by compromising?’”

4. Customers appreciate useful info, not blab:

“I try to give the overall impression that we’re not just a box house but an interesting place to do business with. I’ll let people know that the Met” — the Metropolitan Museum of Art — “is doing a photo contest, or Adobe is offering a free seminar. But I don’t try to fill Facebook pages with endless chatter or send something out on Twitter every 15 minutes — they’ll start seeing it as spam. The name of the game is quality of comment, not quantity. There’s a sweet spot, and if you hit it, the sales will come. I never forget that there’s a bottom line in this place, and everything I do has to eventually come back to it. If I’m going to ask for a raise here, I need to be able to say where it’s going to come from.”

Get the rest of the story from The New York Times

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