Saying no gracefully

When you get a message that doesn’t make the grade (seriousness, dollar value, time frame), it’s very tempting to ignore it. After all you get so many messages, and you’re very busy. It’s only reasonable, right? You have to prioritize how you spend your time… right?

What we often forget is that someone, a potential customer or maybe just a window shopper, said “Hello!”. If you’re not careful, by ignoring them, you’re leaving them with a negative image. Think about their perspective! By not replying, you’re sending a message that they’re not worth your time, you can’t be bothered replying, or worse, that your pre-sales is so poor they shouldn’t bother buying (imagine the post sales experience!?).

You need to treat every inquiry, whether it’s a web form inquiry, email, direct message, forum post or tweet, critical or not, with as much importance as a walk in customer. These are your customers, and your response (or lack thereof) if going to determine what they think of you, and what they communicate onwards.

A well received negative response can be worth more in positive brand image than an actual low value customer.

Listening to Customer Feedback

Are you listening?

Businesses spend a lot of money on polls, customer surveys, satisfaction reports and other forms of market research. Which is why it’s surprising that so few invest (a comparatively small amount) to use social media tools to analyze customer feedback. Listening & understanding client opinions should be the first stage of any marketing campaign, and with social media, it’s possibly one of the easiest campaigns to implement. Unlike other mediums it’ll also get you real-time feedback.

I’m not going to go into the details of how to listen, Chris Brogan, and many others, do a good job of providing tips on which tools to use – whatever your budgets are. Be warned though, the old rule of garbage in – garbage out still applies! You still need to know where to look, whom to ask your proverbial questions to (prospective clients, dell evangelists vs the dell-hell group), what questions to ask and most importantly you’ll need to be able to interpret your findings into meaningful information, which can be harder than it looks.

The skills you’ve developed from traditional marketing still apply, and you’ll need to use them regularly. Social Media is just a medium, not a substitue for analysis, interpretation and applied intelligence.

Are you milking your enquiries ?

I was interested in buying a product on eBay but needed more information, so I sent a request to the seller. Within minutes of having sent it, he’d replied! In the next few minutes we exchanged a few notes and I bought it.

This is something that retailers have understood for a long time, but that we often forget about when online. The speed & quality of your response to an inquiry, make the difference between a new customer and a window shopper.

This Harvard Business Review article provides a really good overview as to how quickly companies are currently responding.

After putting all that effort into getting people to call you, remember to answer the phone and sell them something! Put a little effort into pre-preparing your responses so that you can respond faster, but don’t send out automated emails or responses that feel too much like a template.