Last week, we had a person call Tina in Customer Service a “Bi**h” on the phone. It wasn’t a particularly great moment for us in Customer Service. And then, it got worse. The customer sent multiple harassing emails, threatening to tarnish our name and reputation “all over the internet” unless we gave her a refund for product she insisted was bad but that she couldn’t prove she ordered from us (no order number nor could we find an order under her name for) and she had not returned to us. The individual’s daughter called and said, “It would be in your best interest if you just refund us now” with another threat to ruin our reputation.This type of behaviour isn’t new. It’s happened before. But, in the age of Twitter, Facebook, Blogs, Yelp etc… it is particularly difficult to deal with. In Seattle, bartenders are reporting that customers are threatening to post bad reviews of their bar unless they get free drinks. There’s a term for this; it’s called “Shopping Terrorism.” The official definition: “It is the act where a shopper threatens negative reviews about a merchant or business because they do not get what they want. ”
If you’re a small business, here are some ways that you can combat “Shopping Terrorism”:
(1) Have clearly stated customer service policies, in writing, easily accessible. For example, Bramble Berry’s Policies page is here. It covers returns, shipping times and more. Be consistent with your rules but always err on the side of the customer. The goal is for your policies to enhance and help the customer service experience, not impede it.
(2) Set up a ‘Google Alert’ for your name and your company name. You can set up Google Alerts for free here. Google will email you when your name pops up on the Internet. Please note that they will not email you if your name pops up in a forum. Those “closed” systems you need to monitor yourself.
(3) Use Search.Twitter.com frequently and search for your company name. That direct link is here. The Mozilla browser also has a Twitter Search Add-On if you use that browser.
(4) Cultivate friends and fans by being active on your Facebook Fan page and blog. Curious how Bramble Berry does it? Our FB fan page is here and we try to interact and be helpful throughout the day and on the weekend.
(5) The reason for cultivating friends and fans? It’s just good business sense since people buy from people they like AND, right now, chances are that your customers, friends and fans will be the first line of defense with any negative postings about your company before you will. If you have an entire host of people watching out for you who genuinely like you and feel connected to you, this is the best defense against shopping terrorism.
The best defense against negative reviews or shopping terrorism is to run your business with integrity; ship out your products in a timely manner, have fair prices, keep consistent service and always respond to customer emails and phone calls promptly. But, if things go south (the old adage “You can’t please everyone all the time,” comes into play the larger you get and the more customers you serve), the above five suggestions will hopefully help.
I’d love to know your thoughts on this – any suggestions will help me AND your fellow readers.