Up until the Internet came along it was fairly easy to keep your customers under control. Unless you were outed by the newspapers or television, the failings and deficiencies of your company were only transmitted by word-of-mouth which limited the spread and level of detail of any complaints or problems. Not so now. Now the slightest rumor about what your company isn't doing right can go viral on the 'Net and before you know it you're fighting raging PR fires and trying to repair the damage.
There are two strategic elements to handling this new world of public relations: First, establish solid, frequent communications with your market. If you are known to be engaged then when problem occur you are in a position to ensure that the second element – a quick, honest, and relevant response – can be executed.
A service that’s been around for a while that provides an excellent platform for communicating with your market and managing problems is Get Satisfaction.
Get Satisfaction is a service where not only can you as a company establish channels to your users but they can communicate with each other creating, in the case of the more enthusiastic user groups, crowd-sourced support and customer service.
Here’s how it works: Say you run a cable company. You are a huge operation with hundreds of employees providing thousands of services and components of business processes. Someone has a problem, say, a coaxial cable has come lose from a telephone pole and they want you to come and fix it. They call your office but no matter who they speak to no one seems to know how to even identify if it is their own cable let alone figure out who should fix it.
This was actually my problem and having found no help by telephone from the local cable companies (Time Warner Cable, Verizon, or Comcast) I finally (today as I write) went on to Get Satisfaction and posted my problem on the forums for each company.
Within 15 minutes I got an e-mail message from Comcast’s Customer Connect department asking for details! So far nothing from Time Warner or Verizon but the day is young and hope springs eternal to the savage breast … in this case, my savage breast (this cable has really annoyed me – it is about ¾” in diameter and really stiff and really in the way).
The roll call of companies that have presences on Get Satisfaction is impressive and includes the aforementioned Time Warner Cable, Verizon, and Comcast as well as Twitter, Mozilla, Quantas, Apple, Dell, Facebook, and many more.
Smart companies will use Get Satisfaction (for free) to build customer loyalty, gather feedback to improve products and services, and, as I suggested in the opening, manage and defuse problems before they become crises. Companies can show that they use Get Satisfaction through a Web badge, a support widget, or integrate their site with Get Satisfaction service through the Get Satisfaction API.
Smart users will use Get Satisfaction (also for free) to find answers, connect with other users, get service, and apply pressure to the companies whose products they use to get the changes they want. Occasionally they might even actually get satisfaction. They might even get rid of the damn cable in their backyard.