During the last year, trust in U.S.-based companies dropped five points, down to 50 percent, according to the Edelman Trust Barometer. As companies struggle with customer satisfaction and loyalty, change needs to ensue to restore faith in business, which takes both time and perseverance. What might seem like a petty social media review could ruin your entire reputation. It's crucial, therefore, to approach every customer and situation with care.
We spoke with Peter Muhlmann, founder and CEO of Trustpilot, who offered four ways to improve communication with consumers. Implement these tactics to achieve a better relationship with your customers.
Respond even to unhappy customers
While it might be tempting to ignore rude comments or nasty reviews, doing so only harms your reputation. Don't avoid the problem; approach it with genuine concern and an open mind. [Read related article: Best Online Reputation Management Services]
"Consumers are people and want to be treated as such," said Muhlmann. "Answer their questions and resolve their issues as if you were trying to help out your mom. Be personable and take a genuine interest in their concerns."
According to Lee Resources, if you resolve a complaint in the customer's favor, they will do business with you again 70 percent of the time. It's worth a few minutes of your time to retain consumers.
Reply in a timely manner
Sometimes, answering comments and concerns isn't enough. Make your best effort to respond within 24 hours, proving to the customer that their concerns are important to you.
The best way to show your customers that you care is by setting up a system that focuses solely on customer service. "If you're taking a proactive approach, you're already halfway there," said Muhlmann. "The key to staying on top of customer reviews is to actively seek them out and have a strategy and process in place ahead of time. Like many crucial business operations, preparation and planning go a long way." [Read related article: Best Call Centers and Answering Services for Business]
Implement a two-way communications channel
You want to make sure there is an online platform where you and your customers can have a dialogue. For example, on Twitter, consumers can tweet concerns and receive a reply in the same thread. Facebook Messenger is another great, personalized way to discuss questions or concerns.
"Social media and third-party online review platforms provide the perfect space for open and consistent two-way communication between companies and their customers," said Muhlmann.
Additionally, it creates valuable data sets that might help you reach consumers in the future, he said. "Keyword tagging and natural language processing tools can help you spot trends and patterns in consumer behavior, all of which can help you improve and grow your business."
Address issues online
If you do choose to encourage open communication on online platforms, you need to approach public concerns and reviews like they are just as important as private emails and phone calls. One bad comment can blow up, spreading word that your business is unprofessional.
"You want to be sure that your brand is responding from a place of empathy as well as showing the brand's ability to admit fault by issuing an apology when appropriate," said Muhlmann. "Nobody is perfect, after all, and that includes businesses – even some of the most successful ones across the globe. If you made a mistake, that's okay. Take responsibility and propose a solution."
Having too much pride and not admitting to faults is a surefire way to turn consumers off. However, acknowledging and solving issues on a public platform shows your audience that you're sincere and you are willing to work with them through any problem.