Word-of-mouth( or -mouse) – bad news travels faster

I had an poor service experience last week which brought to mind a post I wrote earlier this year, entitled “When you’re your own worst marketing nightmare.” I also read a post on GottaQuirk arguing that critical customers should be your best friends.

The basic premise is that complaining customers care enough about your brand to complain – making them an incredible resource of information about the way your brand is perceived. If you tend to their needs, and meet their complaints, there is also huge potential in turning complaining customers into people who value you.

The alternative – leaving the complaints untended – is likely to turn into a reputation crisis. The premise isn’t really rocket science, but undoubtedly a thought that companies traditionally haven’t used the way it should.

Last week, my fiancée and I experienced the most appalling service at Melissa’s on Kloof Street – to the extent that we cancelled part of our order, paid and left extremely dissatisfied. I’m unlikely ever to go back there. Besides the complete lack of menu knowledge on the part of the waitron and the fact that one meal hadn’t arrived by the time the other was finished, the thing that bugged me the most was that they made no allowance for the complaining customer. There was no front-of-house manager and, when the apparent manager/owner did come out from the kitchen and was clearly made aware of our having cancelled the second meal, she didn’t approach us to seek an explanation or ask us if there was a problem. She didn’t seem to care.

The first step in befriending your critical customers is being easily approachable. In the case of a restaurant/deli, that means having a manager visible and available to the customers, who ensures that they have a positive experience or, failing that, that any negative experience is mitigated to the greatest extent possible.

In the case of the DA, it means providing easily accessible contact details and multiple channels for contacting the party. (I even had someone point out an error on one of our websites on Facebook last week.)

The second step is to pay attention. And the third is to be responsive.

I like to think that we measure up pretty well on all three counts. How does your company fare?

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