Canada's Toronto Star newspaper recently ran an excellent article by its consumer affairs columnist, Ellen Roseman, on several firms that have responded well when faced with consumer complaints or incidents. These companies are Molson, Staples, GM, and Future Shop.
"'I'm not looking for thanks when I send consumer complaints to large companies,' "she wrote. " 'But I'm always impressed when they respond with gratitude. Smart companies know it's cheaper to retain customers than to find new ones. Each complaint I send gives them a chance to head off defectors and turn their anger into applause. "
It is commendable that these outfits acted promptly and effectively. Yet the cases she cited was where people were treated with respect '"once the media got involved.' "
This is the 'gotcha': 'Working over the consumer' stories are in every urban/large paper reporter's stock in trade. Someone always has a legitimate beef about a company that they've done business or otherwise interacted with and when they do not get satisfaction they call the media. (Rural/small city papers, and people tend to be nicer in up front because everyone knows each other, but behind the scenes, well, that's a different story...)
The question that lingers is that why does it have to take the media to get involved for companies to do the right thing? Why can't otherwise intelligent firms put in place solid procedures to resolve the issues in the first place that is far cheaper and less image-damaging than getting the press involved, and forking over cash in PR expenses?
And it isn't just the media anymore that is there to spread the bad news. This is the age of the empowered individual, folks. Thanks to countless social networking sites a company's reputation--and sales--can plummet like a stone in clear water if annoy their purchasers.
To make sure you don't become the story or the subject of online punches take some time to review and if need be improve your customer service strategies, including ensuring that your staff: contact center agents, retail salespeople, and supervisors, are with the program. Your business depends on it. With a tough economy where buyers are becoming scarce you can't afford to lose a single one.