LAS VEGAS, Nev. — As you read these words, a conversation about your limousine business is going on at a lightning-fast pace on the hyper-connected highways of the social Web. You can either jump in and take control of the conversation or ignore it and watch as it spirals into negativity.
Michael Campbell, CEO of Grace Limousine in Manchester, N.H., looked at his computer screen with great consternation. The words filling his eyes spit venomous declarations of incompetence against his company. He was looking at Yelp.com, a popular social network of consumer-based product and service reviews, where a disgruntled customer trashed Grace Limousine with a one-out-of-five star rating and the claim that “there is zero personal service when you call, they blame you and hang-up.”
Campbell immediately contacted the customer to resolve the issue, after which the customer posted the following message on Yelp:
After experiencing a problem with Grace Limousine service (see below review), I was contacted by the President of the company within 24 hours and had the problem resolved to my satisfaction. This turned out to be great customer service by this company. Few companies care but this company does!
He also changed the Yelp score to a five-star rating.
Extension of Customer Service
While customer complaints are nothing new, what makes Campbell’s case unique is that the customer complained to a third-party social network instead of directly contacting the company. In addition to a scathing review, the unhappy client gave the company the lowest possible score, both of which would be seen by prospective customers considering the use of Grace Limousine.
“Today’s customers prefer to interact with companies through social media instead of calling or emailing,” says Kristin Carroll, who manages Grace Limousine’s social media marketing and outreach efforts. Had Campbell not learned of and responded to the negative review, it could have damaged his company’s reputation without him even realizing it. But by engaging with the upset client, Campbell was able to reroute the conversation, receive a higher rating, and reinforce the idea that Grace Limousine cares about customers.
New England operator Michael Campbell invests heavily in social media for his company’s outreach and marketing efforts. A negative review from an unhappy client on a social network spurred him to take action, make changes, and resolve the issue. If he had ignored or remained unaware of it, his company’s reputation could have been damaged.
“Companies need to go on their social networks every day and monitor for interactions,” Caroll said. “Having a non-updated social media account that is neglected is worse than not having one.”
Businesses cannot avoid the conversation around their brand by simply preventing clients from posting to their social media pages or disabling comments because that defeats the purpose of a social network. Instead, operators should see social media as an important channel for resolving customer service issues.
Customer service isn’t the only role social media plays in Campbell’s operation; he uses it as a marketing tool to get more clients. He gets new prospects to like his page through paid Facebook advertising and keeps them engaged by actively posting updates. “Likes don’t mean a whole lot if you don’t have engaged users,” Campbell said.
So how do you engage users and guide them into booking a vehicle?
• Acknowledge Facebook followers as people
• Share posts that are thought-provoking
• Share posts that are funny
• Share posts that offer a behind-the-scenes peek into the company
• Don’t be so salesy
“If people felt they were being sold to all day long, they’d leave Facebook,” Carroll said. “That’s why Facebook created EdgeRank, an algorithm that decides which posts show up on a user’s News Feed. It’s a complex algorithm, but basically it’s like this: If people like you, Facebook likes you. Post stuff that’s interesting to people. Posts should be relevant to the market and its particular sense of humor, but keep a level of professionalism.”
These guidelines apply beyond the blue borders of Facebook and work with just about any social network. Carroll encourages operators to start with Facebook but be open to trying out other platforms.
“Embrace the technology that’s effective today, but don’t marry it,” she said. “Use Facebook to drive customers to your website. If Google+ takes over, apply the same concepts to build those relationships and drive customers to your website.”
“It doesn’t take a ton of time to catch up on social media,” Campbell added. “Having a social media presence takes money if you want to do it well, but not as much money as traditional forms of advertising. Be creative, be authentic, be yourself. Find your voice and use it.”