Back in the mid 80s when I was a tech support person, I pulled together the fixes for many of the issues we heard on the phone every day to create a “Tips and Tricks” document to give to our distributors. I thought this would not only cut down on tech support calls, but would empower our distributors to be the heroes for their customers. But the company president was appalled with the idea. “We don’t want to admit that there are problems with our products!” So the distributors were kept in the dark, and the end-users kept calling us for support. In other words, the company lost a good opportunity by sweeping its problems under the rug. That company doesn’t exist any more.

What do you do when customers report problems with your product or service?
Do you post the information along with fixes on your website? Do you fire up the video camera and post a fix on the internet? Responding quickly and effectively to your customers’ issues goes beyond mere customer support, because in these days of YouTube and Twitter, your customer’s stories can become important testimonies for how well, or how poorly, you handle issues and take care of your customers.

An example of a customer story turning into a viral marketing mistake for a company is the story of United Airlines and how it reacted when a customer’s guitar was destroyed in the baggage system.

For an example of how a positive story was turned into a win/win for the customer and the company, look at the “Apple Says Yes” story reported on MacRumors in March 2011.

The moral of the story

Every interaction with your customers, even when they are contacting you with a complaint, is an opportunity to get positive PR and even turn an unhappy user into a loyal lifelong customer.

Update

I just came across an excellent slidedeck from IBM that explores 10 social media failures that explore this customer-support angle — it’s a must-see: http://www.slideshare.net/HorizonWatching/social-media-101-social-media-disasters

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