This post originally appeared in the ForumCon blog
Does your company “get” online community? Here’s a simple test:
What do you call it when somebody complains about your product or service in an online community?
a.) A problem
b.) An opportunity
If your answer was “b,” congratulations. You get it.
It’s amazing how often people forget that an online community is a group of real, live people. Imagine you’re at a gathering – let’s say you’re at a cocktail party — and some guy says something bad about your company. In response, you quickly hustle him out of the room, then return, wave your hands around, and insist everybody forget what was just said.
When you delete a critical comment from a forum, you’re engaging in the online version of the same behavior.
More importantly, you’re missing an opportunity.
Let’s go back to the cocktail party.
Instead of trying to cover up this guy’s critical comment, let’s say you have a friendly drink with Mr. Complainer, find out what he’s sore about, and make it right. Not only have you won over the guy that was badmouthing your company, you’ve done it in front of a room full of party-goers who now think you and your company are pretty swell.
When you see disparaging comments about your company in an online community, seize the opportunity to impress the crowd.
Generally speaking, you see two kinds of complaints about companies in online communities.
One goes something like this: “That company screwed me.”
In cases like this, acknowledge the customer’s frustration. Ask for details so they know they’re being listened to. Do what you can to make it right. Most of all, be open and honest. If the customer’s demands are unreasonable, politely explain that you can’t do what they are demanding of you and why. But if you can fix the problem, tell the customer publicly in the community (being careful to avoid disclosing any personal or sensitive information) and wow the crowd.
The other type of complaint is more vague, like “I hear that company stinks.”
When responding to comments like these, seek specifics without being confrontational. Skip the schoolyard “Says who?!” and go with something like “I’m with the company and I’m surprised to hear that. Is there a problem or concern I can help you with?” If there is a specific issue, address it head-on. If the comment was unproven innuendo, that will become evident when the response sounds like “Well, I heard it from a guy, who heard it from…” Or when there’s no response at all.
Deleting complaints makes your company look bad. It leaves the impression that you’re afraid to engage with your customers, or worse, that you’ve got something to hide.
Don’t be that company.
Photo credit: bdunnette