Play with fire if you dare

In the old world order, companies were like fortresses.

In that old world, before the Internet, blogs, and social media such as YouTube, Yelp! and Twitter, your complaints about a big company would echo only in your head.

Today, you or your company’s reputation can go up in flames in a flash, with negative messages echoing across the Internet faster than a lightning strike.

An early sign that technology was giving people a voice came in June 2005, when tech writer and author Jeff Jarvis wrote a post to his blog under the title, “Dell sucks.” Dell dissed Jarvis, he got mad and he blogged about it.more

Thousands of people left comments of support on his blog, and word spread. His blog posts ranked increasingly higher on Google.

In August, just two months after his first Dell post, Business Week ran a story about Jarvis’s Dell experience. Dell got the message, and made the needed changes to its customer service practices.

2009 brought us David Carroll’s song about United Airlines breaking his guitar – the song went viral on YouTube. United Airlines also made the needed changes to its customer service practices.

That’s two individuals who had monumental impact on two gigantic companies.

No business is too small to be the subject of negative comments or reviews that spread like wildfire.

Conventional wisdom decrees that there’s no such thing as bad publicity, that all visibility is good. If you believe this, ask yourself how much it could cost your business if disgruntled customers started writing about their experience, and word spread?

In this new world order, don’t wait till fire strikes to take preventive measures. As long as your shingle is hanging out for all to see, do whatever it takes to have happy customers.

That means learning what gets customers upset, understanding how to avoid upsetting them in the first place, knowing what they want, and “calming them right away with words that defuse anger and defensiveness,” says Rebecca Morgan, CSP, CMC, author of the business bestseller, Calming Upset Customers: Staying Effective During Unpleasant Situations.

Customers are a business’s crown jewels. Take good care of them, and they’ll last an eternity.

Roberta Guise works with experts, small business owners and professionals who want to be extraordinarily visible and sharpen their marketing edge. A marketing consultant and speaker, she owns San Francisco-based Guise Marketing & PR. If you'd like to know how to apply these concepts to your situation, call for a free 1/2 hour consultation. 415-979-0611.