Social Media and The No-Brainer Customer Service Equation

by Ken Mueller on September 20, 2010 · 4 comments

It’s really quite simple:

  • Great Customer Service = Happy Customer = Return Customer + Positive Word of Mouth

And then, of course, there’s the corollary:

  • Poor Customer Service = Angry/Frustrated Customer = Former Customer + Negative Word of Mouth

Yep. Sure seems like a no-brainer, and yet how many businesses still mess up in the area of customer service? I’m not talking about those occasions when the waitress has had a bad day, or when there are those issues that are just completely out of your control. I’m talking about having consistently poor customer service. And in my mind, “mediocre” customer service is the same as poor.

Yet we seem to spend much more time on attracting new customers, only to let our existing clientele go under-served. As Scott Stratten says in his great new book, UnMarketing: Stop Marketing. Start Engaging

“It takes about 5 to 10 times the amount of work to bring in a new customer as it does to retain a current customer. When you know this, do you spend so much time and attention focusing only on attracting new business? You need to be giving at least this much focus on satisfying your current customers. Satisfied customers are the best way to market your business, because they are the ones that become your word-of-mouth army – they are your customer evangelists.”

In the digital age, nearly everyone is online and using social networking platforms. You should have the mindset that every customer has a megaphone. The moment they walk out your door, no…while they are STILL IN your business establishment, they have the ability to spread the word. Will that word of mouth be positive or negative?

Think in terms of recent cases:

(Not sure why a lot of these cases involve airlines, but they seem to have more than their fair share of stories dealing with poor customer service). Carroll, a musician, wrote songs and recorded videos about his experience; Smith, a popular director, told his more than 1.5 million Twitter followers about his experience; and Jaffe, an author and popular new media marketer, has taken on Delta on Twitter and in his blog for the past 2 years.

Each of them has a megaphone. A big megaphone.

Your customers have megaphones as well, and they are more than happy to tell others about the poor service they receive from your business.

But there is an upside: Word-of-mouth can be positive as well.

One of the classic examples is Zappos, an online shoe and clothing retailer. They pride themselves on their customer service, and in fact, their motto is: Powered by Service. If you’re going to make a claim like that, you better be prepared to back it up, and from what I understand, they usually do. In the most famous example, they went above and beyond, and got a lot of great positive word of mouth in blogs and social media circles (which of course upped the ante for them even more!) You can read about it here.

Word-of-Mouth, either positive or negative, can bring about seismic change. As Stratten says, “everything is immediate and everyone’s voice is relevant. Social media is the great level playing field for all.” And he notes that we are now in a world where customer service is publicized:

“Companies are accustomed to one-on-one customer service…What social media allows is for business to have those interactions in public. This kind of public service can be both good and bad for your brand. Good, because it allows people to see that you are listening and engaging and care about customer service…The bad can happen if the business account is run by someone not skilled at customer service or when complaints are ignored.”

Not every customer is a celebrity with a large online following. But you never know what kind of power they wield. Treat every customer as if they are your best and most important customer; as if they are wielding a large megaphone with lots of influence.

I’ll leave you with a few more bits of wisdom from Stratten’s Unmarketing, which I’ll be reviewing in the near future:

“If you believe business is built on relationships, make building them your business.”

“If you say you have no time to listen and to talk with people in your marketplace, then you are saying that you have no time for your customers.”

“Every point of contact is a point of engagement – it either heightens the relationship or lowers it.”

How is your customer service? Do you truly care about your customers, and if so, is this evident in how you are engaging them publicly?



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