Andrew Teman

Posts tagged customer service
Service Review Behavior (A Quick Thought)

I’ve spent an inordinate amount of time in my career, working on digital and brand strategies for service companies. And the one thing I hear from every single one at some point or another, is this:

We get a ton of awesome emails and letters from happy customers, but all of our online reviews skew negative. How can we get our happy customers to post their positive reviews online?

In fact, just in the past 48 hours alone, I received a frantic text from my brother-in-law (he runs marketing for a health club chain and was agonizing over a negative Facebook review), had a conversation with a client concerned with overcoming their 2-star Google rating, and then my wife forwarded me this gem.

These bad reviews, and company’s inability to surface the good ones more easily, is something that makes brand managers, marketers, and PR folks go insane. I’ve seen it and heard it dozens of times.

But while these brands are all looking for some technical fix (build me a system to make it better!), the problem isn’t a mechanical one, it’s a behavioral one. It has to do with motivation, and why people choose to review their experiences where they do.

Here is how I observe it.

People are compelled to post negative reviews online, publicly, because their motivation is to warn and help others (“beware of this company/product!”), and also (I’d imagine) to gain some level of retribution against the company they feel wronged by, through public shaming (“I really showed them!”). It’s one of the sharpest weapons an individual can wield against the big bad organization in the face of conflict.

People tend to send positive reviews directly to the people that they are praising (via email or postal mail), because their motivation is to show appreciation to the individual that helped them, by thanking them specifically. In many cases, the feeling tends to be that some single person at the big bad organization, stepped out and helped you. So the positive review becomes about repaying the good feeling to another human, that they gave to you. It’s a shared moment of two people helping and appreciating each other, and thus, doesn’t really need to be public.

Of course, every company wishes that this was reversed. They want the good reviews to be public and the negative ones to be private. Behaviorally though, it just doesn’t work that way.

This is merely an observation/pseudo-insight, and I am aware that I’m not offering a solution here. Just something I was thinking about this morning though and wanted to get down on “paper”

If anyone has any thoughts/expansions on this though, I’d love to add to it.

Social Media Customer Service - The Entitlement Age

Yesterday evening I posted out to Twitter, the following:

Social media has created an unrealistic sense of entitlement amongst customers, who are quick to use economic threats to get their way.

To go a bit beyond my 140 character allotment, what I mean here is this.

There is no denying that over the past several years, that social media has materially changed the dynamic between consumers and corporations. The net effect of this shift (in my opinion) has been an overwhelmingly positive thing. Consumers are now more adequately armed with the tools needed to fight back against companies that mistreat them or poorly service them, and this is a good thing. 

But with this newfound power, comes some sense of responsibility that seems to have been lost on most of us. 

Emboldened by this ability to wield our social networks as weapons, we have become bloodthirsty, and quick to shoot when we feel the slightest bit wronged.

Proper service, expected results, and a timely response are no longer enough. We want to be catered to. We DEMAND to be catered to. And if we are not personally satisfied, if our individual needs are not fully met, we are quick to use the stick and dole out social media punishment to those we feel have wronged us.

This punishment tends to come most often, in the form of economic threats. You changed the logo on my cereal box? I’m switching brands. You charged me a bank fee? I’m going to find a new bank. New design on my orange juice container? Never buying it again.

And though threats like these are generally representative of an extremely small minority, when well placed, they can send the most seasoned marketing professionals into a tailspin, and force them to become irrational.

I’ve seen it dozens of times with colleagues and I’ve been there myself. One pointed, nasty threat to stop doing business with a brand, dropped haphazardly onto a Facebook page, can upend months of thinking and millions of dollars worth of work. The second-guessing begins so easily on the back of a statistically insignificant number of negative comments. 

I love this quote from Markus Frind, creator of dating site PlentyOfFish. When asked how he has resisted adding commonly requested features, such as chatrooms and video profiles, he responded

“I don’t listen to the users,” he says. “The people who suggest things are the vocal minority who have stupid ideas that only apply to their little niches.”

While this may read as harsh, it’s an admirable position, if not an extremely tough one to stick to as a corporate entity.

And while most big brands would never dare say what Markus has, I’m sure most of them would love to. Either way, I think it’s an interesting piece of commentary that reveals how adversarial the relationship between consumer and corporation has become in the social customer service space.

As brands, we need to understand that the evolution of social media has put is in a position where simply providing adequate service is no longer enough. Providing amazing service is now table-stakes.

As consumers, we need to remember that often times, each party simply knowing that the other is armed, will cause everyone to behave a bit better. And that the more we use our influence as a weapon, the weaker it will become over time.