Next up on {grow} “Community Week” is Kristen Daukus, a fellow marketing entrepreneur, social media lover and consultant:

“I am afraid to use social media because people will use it to complain about me and my business.”

I work primarily with small businesses and can’t tell you how many times I hear that sentence.

Here’s what I think about this:

  • If you really think that many of your customers are going to complain about your company and services, you’ve got a lot more to worry about than social media.
  • What about all the ones that want to talk about how great your service is? Don’t they matter?
  • And shouldn’t you be GLAD they are taking the complaint to you instead of their neighbors?

Consider complaints a gift!

And while we’re on the topic of gifts, I cannot tell you how many times I’ve sent out a love message to brands regarding service I received (naming staff, too I might add) or how amazing their new widget is only to be met with the sounds of crickets.

Nothing! No “Hey @KristenDaukas we’re so glad you enjoyed your new widget!” – nothing!  I just gave you a huge box of love and YOU’RE NOT LISTENING?

Do you think companies are so hyper-sensitive to monitoring the BAD news through the social media channels that they miss a huge opportunity in addressing the POSITIVE pieces of news?  Are brand de-sensitized to LOVE?

I realize there are a lot of community managers doing damage control out there and putting out fires is a vital piece of social media.  People by nature, are much quicker to complain than to compliment.  They have been subconsciously programmed into thinking that if they yell loud enough, they’ll get what they want.

How did this happen?  Not only have we developed this habit of rewarding bad behavior, we EXPECT it.

You don’t like your meal?  Don’t pay for it.  You don’t like the room?  Here’s a free night’s stay.  We don’t have your size?  Here’s a 50% discount.

So you give them what they want and what … they love you forever?  They go away?  Do you think they’ll make as much noise about how you resolved the issue?  Do you think they’ll become brand ambassadors for you?

Maybe. Maybe not. Even if they do, I doubt the “love” will last very long.

But …

What if we took a page from the Dr. Spock books and rewarded the GOOD behavior?

When is there a better time to make a brand lover even happier than when they’re already happy? If I’m tweeting how amazing your company, service or product is, imagine what I’m going to do when you acknowledge that love!  I am going to turn around and blow even more sunshine around the world about you. There won’t be a person within earshot that won’t know how amazing you are. Sliced bread will have nothing on you.

And that’s just from the FIRST exchange.

What about when we start to have a conversation and share witty banter?? Wow … we’re FRIENDS now!!  And I don’t EXPECT a thing. Nothing. If you choose to give me a little freebie love, that’s only going to make me happier and make me talk more.   And then what happens if someone says something bad about my friend??  What do friends do?  They protect you, of course!  That very passionate person all of a sudden becomes your biggest ally..

See where I’m going with this?  It’s all in your approach — glass half full versus  half empty.

Are there people that do nothing but complain? Yes. Are there more people that want to see you succeed? Yes. Do them a favor and let them help you.

Kristen Daukas is a founder of Linking Winston-Salem, Social Media Club Piedmont-Triad and her newest pet project, TweetBroads.

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  • You hit it right on the money, Kristen. Another related issue for me is when the company actually does exist in the Twittersphere, and they selectively choose to whom they respond. Bad show on their part – especially when most disgruntled customers (like me) only need acknowledgment. I just need to know you are listening AND you heard me. Besides – if you’re going to respond to the other guy, why not me, too? And I wasn’t even complaining the first time I sent out a tweet!

  • Arminda, I cannot agree with you more. Selective tweets.. it’s like high school. I had an experience last week where I sent a (nice) tweet to a company and followed it up with an old-fashioned email. Now, they have practically zero activity on twitter so I can (begrudgingly) let that one go, but Email? Really? So now I have to call which will be my 3rd attempt at solving the issue and guess what.. not going to be as upbeat as I was at try #1 and try #2. Thanks for commenting!

  • Joyce Margo

    90% of people (and companies) relish hearing positive comments….so 90% should speak positive comments. No one really cares about the other 10%.

  • “Sliced bread will have nothing on you.”

    So true.

    This is such a simple concept and yet I also see many folks on twitter blasting companies who simply fail to respond to problems and even compliments.

    I am hoping some of the folks in these companies read your post Kristen because this is great advice that they all need to hear.

  • I’m so glad you brought this up! So many times I hear the complaint that some brand didn’t respond to their complaint, but I’m with you. I can’t count how many times I’ve offered up a testimonial or praise and been ignored.

    Great point, Kristen! Really spot on!

  • @Joyce – it’s the old adage the cream will always rise to the top!
    @Nathan.. Thank you.. wonder if eventually there will be a division of departments.. the happy side and the fire-fighting side. If so, eventually the fire-fighting side might be able to shut down.. what a concept.
    @Rebecca – Thanks! It’s sad that SM still has that bad rap of 1)It’s only to find out what so and so had for lunch and 2) a place where complaints go to die. I admit that I go straight to twitter when I have an issue but I also head over there when I want to sing praise. Makes me feel like an unwelcome guest when I’m not acknowledged!
    Thanks for the comments guys!

  • Customer Service seems to come naturally to a treasured few. The rest seem to operate in an existence of their own creation where priorities and demands teeter all around them, threatening to crash down at any moment, crushing the very life out of anyone who has the misfortune of being in the vicinity at the time.

    How can they be expected to notice valued customers, the true life source and antidote to survival, when every ounce of energy they’ve got is focussed on getting through the day, navigating dangerous terrain of imagined priorities in mind-numbing ignorance?

    As frustrating, tiresome and aggravating as it can be – it’s all information.

    When Service people don’t reply to a Gratitude Email because no complaint was attached and they are measured on responding to as many complaints as possible to minimize escalated aggravation ~ see it for what it is (poor training, lost focus, lack of understanding of job’s basic principle) and design future business proposals to ensure that THIS never happens in companies who have contracted your service.

    Complaints ARE gifts – so, too, are frustrating experiences … because they effectively mirror who we are NOT, thus helping us become more clear on values and behaviours we, ourselves, sharpen to ensure no one ever leaves an encounter with us feeling like they’re invisible, unimportant, taken for granted, unnecessary.

    I refer to people and situations like that as Speedbumps. Their sole existence appears to be the slowing down of momentum. Their usefulness, however, lies in what we do with the time in which we’ve been forced to slow down.

    Keep highlighting and applauding people and service you’re grateful for ~ it’s being noticed … and in so doing, you are Being the change you’d like to see in the world.

    Great post Kristen!

  • Kristen – You make some great points. I have had the experience you mention … raving about someone and hearing those crickets. When that happens, it leaves me feeling awkward, belittled, and kind of “naked,” if you know what I mean. I’d go so far as to say that a snubbed/ignored rave is even more damaging to a relationship than a bad experience on the front end. With the latter, the brand does a little triage, makes nice and the storm is over. No harm, no foul. In the former case, the brand has potentially lost the most important asset they’ve got – a raving fan who is willing to shout it from the rooftops. I’d give up more than a handful of disgruntled non-fans to save that one vocal, raving fan any day!

  • Good stuff here, Kristen. Kudos! Appreciating and nurturing your customer base is what creates a loyal customer. When you ignore them? Well, like you said, they might just go find someone else to love.

    Right or wrong, we’re a narcisstic society that wants to feel loved and appreciated. So, give your customers the love. If it weren’t for them, you wouldn’t be in existence anyway, right?

    I think a lot of this issue stems from lack of training with social media. Many companies, especially smaller ones, are just getting behind the wheel and don’t understand the rules of the road. They don’t know how to use the tools and then they let the site go dormant. Are they really to blame? I think the real challenge here is for us marketers and social media enthusiasts to reach out and help these businesses who are struggling to “get it”. What do you think?

    Oh, and by the way, I write on a similar topic next week for Mark’s blog. You’ll have to come back to continue this conversation! 😉

  • @Sally – you are so right.. small businesses are choking on the small details that it’s hard to cover everything. I think we’ve all been guilty of wanting to put out the fire before it spreads to quickly and forgetting the ones who’ve helped us. Thanks!
    @Jamie – Amen. It’s like being in middle school, summoning up the courage to tell that boy that you like him and having it go completely unnoticed. You walk away vowing to never “go there” again.
    @Laura – I can’t wait! This is a huge passion point/hot button of mine. We’re nothing without our customers and in this day and time, we need all the shout outs we can get. Teaching companies to reroute their way of thinking is a challenge, at best. But we’ll all get them there.. case by case.
    Thanks everyone!

  • Kristen – I really needed this blog post! From the Fear of Negative Comments to the Crickets at Positive Comments, you got it all. Like you and Jayme talk about, I feel doofy when I give a brand a shoutout and…nothing. Yet when I get that “freebie love” I’m pretty eager to keep paying it forward. From personal experience working with brands, I would say that there is definitely a lack of knowledge about the social media road rules. When I keep that in mind, I feel a lot less silly.

  • Kristen,

    Good points on compliments vs. complaints, and how brands should data mine both. Use the complaints to fix issues, turn it into a positive. Use compliments to reward faithful customers, build loyalty.

    I hear it all the time “I have to remember to write so-and-so, tell them how great their product was.” That’s wonderful but only half the battle if it’s met with crickets.

    Just like the PR campaign that gets ink and clips, but then there’s those crickets, no plan or strategy to use those exposures for furthering the business goals.

    It starts with listening, then responding. FWIW.

  • Not only is responding to raves good for you image but you also have a major resource in your “groupies”. I doubt it would be smart to let potential product testers or even blog reviews of your brand go ignored just because you were a little too busy waiting in the complaint booth.

  • @Jenn — I wouldn’t limit it to “a lack of knowledge about the social media road rules”. It’s more like a lack of knowledge about human interaction. A compliment needs to be acknowledged. Always.

    @Sally G. — Then again, it may be that customer service departments really are judged by the number of COMPLAINTS they deal with. Taking time to respond to positive comments is that much time away from meeting their target. I wouldn’t blame the customer service frontline, I have a feeling it’s more a corporate culture issue.

  • All great points.. it’s sad that we’re just programmed to complain. Like Davina many times have you “meant” to write/call/tweet about a positive experience and it just never happened. We’re much more driven to address something when we feel as though we’ve been “wronged”. Perhaps the first step we can all take is to actually send that “thumbs up” instead of just meaning to.. Hey.. it could work 🙂

    Johnny – isn’t that how the much coveted “viral” campaigns start?? With the groupies? Hhmm… what a concept..

  • I agree with you Kimmo ~ there are likely underlying metrics and expectations from a higher level that ultimately filter down to poor or unfocused service.

    It’s frustrating really ~ because if Department Managers or Senior Executives speak out to address the barriers in the way to better customer attention and focus, repercussions can be harsh. Towing the line is more readily embraced, it’s felt to be more conducive to job security and things either don’t change, or get worse.

    I imagine similar frustrations are shared with those trying so hard to communicate the opportunities Social Media provides.

  • @Kristen,
    Loved this! It almost comes down to teaching businesses to see what’s right in front of their nose. If you LOVE a product, they should be jumping all over you to convert you into a permanent brand ambassador. Someone who will fight for them online, spread the good word and really help them grow !

    Of course, some organizations are like rabbits stuck in the headlights, unsure which direction to move in. It’s not an age thing. Some of the youngest start-ups I’ve come across just don’t know the value of saying “thanks”.

  • Thanks Jon! Although this line – “Some of the youngest start-ups I’ve come across just don’t know the value of saying “thanks”. Could have it’s own column/lesson, couldn’t it?
    As Sally said companies are so buried that we HAVE TO GET BACK TO THE BASICS if we’re ever going to move forward. Sometimes the customer IS wrong.. don’t be afraid to tell them that. It’s pretty obvious when someone is trying to take a company and complain just to get a freebie. Tell them no. Get rid of the “bad stuff” so the “good stuff” can grow.

  • Let me share a personal experience of perfect compliment acknowledgement:

    Two notable things happened during a flight home from a meeting abroad.

    1. The plane took off at such a steep angle that an exquisite cake I had bought for my wife as a souvenir overturned in the overhead locker and was completely destroyed.

    2. When the meal was served, I spilled a glass of ice-cold water. The water started creeping toward me on the table, but the cabin attendant who happened to pass by quickly dried it up before I, strapped to my seat, got it in my crotch (ouch).

    The next day I wrote a letter to the airline pretending to be angry about the destroyed cake and saying I refrained from a lawsuit only because of the cabin attendant’s quick action. I also said I wanted that the cabin attendant be thanked for saving both me from an embarrassment and the airline from litigation.

    After a few days, a letter came back. It said the airline was deeply sorry about the cake, grateful “for my not litigating” and promised to “inform flight crews that such steep climbs are unadvisable”. It also promised to forward my thanks to the cabin attendant.

    It was obvious that whoever replied to my letter had understood the tone of my letter exactly. The cake-destroying climb, of course, was not important and my thanks to the cabin attendant (who was an unbelievably positive person) were sincere. The reply followed my tone and really made me feel good.

    Being told like this, the whole story may not sound so special, but I still remember it although the incident took place more than 10 years ago. THAT is the way you address customer feedback.

    (I know some of you will want to know which airline I’m talking about. Swissair, and the flight was the Zurich-Helsinki one, commonly known as the “booze train” for arriving at 1am and often carrying a rather joyful crowd…)

  • Kimmo: point taken. One hand, there’s knowing where to find your fan comments on your Facebook page or your Twitter feed; on the other, there are people who just wouldn’t thank someone anyway. A real shame.

  • Kristen, Your ideas are refreshing and the last thought is best of all. “Are there people that do nothing but complain? Yes. Are there more people that want to see you succeed? Yes. Do them a favor and let them help you.”


  • I have to chime in again after reading Kimmo’s personal experience on the airline. His story reminds me that oftentimes the corporate voices are managed by different people – so the right hand doesn’t necessarily know what the left hand is doing.

    This has been my experience on more than one occasion when interacting positively with the Twitter voice and then being directed to another area of the company – albeit over the phone, via email or even website – and there is no link to what communication has already transpired.

    This can be a hazardous area for companies, in my opinion, and I’d love to hear some feedback on that dilemma.

  • What fun I’ve had today connecting with some new, like-minded folks! Thanks for the support, comments and camaraderie!

    @Billy – Thanks! It’s nice to hear that anything related to me is refreshing 😉 I tend to stir the pot more than not..

    @Kimmo Love the airplane story.. interesting.. pen to paper.. would one theorize that’s when customer service was better or was it just that it wasn’t as easy to “hear” about the grumblings?

    @Arminda – Gosh.. our Panera would have to give us bronze plates, huh?? That right there is the root of all customer service evil. Nothing incites me quicker than 1)the phone tree 2)telling my story to person A then getting transferred 3)new person asking me to tell my story..uhm..didn’t the computer or at least person A tell you that?? 4)person B moving me to person C, et al.

    Really? in 2010, that’s the best you can do? I worked for AmEx (the original NROC building) in HIGHSCHOOL! and I could track a customer issue better then than they can now. Grrrrr…

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  • Kristen,

    I think your comments apply to everyplace we interact with others – not just social media (and wow, would it help in the web world if people/companies would respond positively!). Reading your blog made me think about how people respond to small courtesies in the “real” world – and how do I respond?

    My wife and I try to reward positive behavior with our children (and each other!) – why should it be any different with other people in other situations?

    Thank you for the thoughts and the reminder.

  • Hey Kristen, great observations! I’d like to add thought that negative comments are sometimes not bad for the business at all. One person’s complaint may be another’s benefit. You should certainly address the complaint and learn from it.
    A great example is in the hotel biz. Someone complains about a hotel because although inexpensive, lacks a number of ammenities wanted. The next person looks at it and says ” perfect, I want cheap and hate paying for all that stuff I don’t use”.

  • Steve – I agree. When training my staff back in the day of restaurants, I always cautioned them that I’d rather have a guest complain so that I would be able to correct the issue than the one who didn’t and just never came back. Often, we’ve become so accustomed to the situation, we can’t see what’s right in front of us that may be broken.

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