March – The Age of Going Viral – The Good and the Very, Very Bad

The Age of Going Viral –
The Good and the Very, Very Bad

With all the coverage of the coronavirus, it got me thinking about viruses and how easily they spread. There is nothing systematic about the spread of a virus, especially when it can be spread through the air. You don’t know who might come in contact with it and spread it to others.
You can follow precautions to protect yourself, but there is no guarantee you won’t be exposed to a virus. You don’t know who will be able to survive the disease and who won’t. If you are infected, quick treatment by knowledgeable professionals is critical. But what about customer feedback that goes viral?

Going Viral – Spreading Like a Virus

The term “going viral” refers to a piece of information that spreads quickly and randomly, just like a virus. It is very difficult to predict what information will become viral. In the online world, a lot of what goes “viral” creates a positive impact, but not always.
A juicy bit of gossip, true or not, has always tempted people to pass it on. With the lightning speed of digital communication, negative information can reach an enormous number of people in a very short time. When that piece of negative information relates to your business, damage control is critical, but not easy.

Going Viral in a Good Way

Phone cameras make it easy to capture moments on video or photos today. People see something special happening, and immediately, the phone comes out to record it. A public marriage proposal, a tearful reunion, the last-minute winning score for a game. Almost just as quickly, those videos and photos get shared on social media. Sometimes they get a few likes, but other times they circulate the Internet, gathering thousands or millions of viewers. We now call this – going viral.
It’s almost impossible to predict what type of post will go viral. If it is a post that relates to a company’s customer service in a positive way, free marketing can be a huge benefit. Here are a few recent examples:

  • Trader Joe’s Entertainment TeamA crying toddler in a shopping cart isn’t an unusual occurrence. Most of us have witnessed it in a grocery store, multiple times. It was the response of the Trader Joe’s employees that made this moment video-worthy and sent it viral. Instead of just ignoring the child, employees in the area of the checkout counter began singing and dancing. Their decision to engage the child with a fun distraction earned hundreds of thousands of views and a big thumbs-up for the grocery chain.
  • Denny’s Restaurant Service to the DisabledWait staff who are friendly, courteous, and competent will always impress diners; the opposite will repel them. The staff at a Denny’s Restaurant in Las Vegas have gone far beyond these basics of good customer service. Visitors to Vegas witnessed and recorded the manager and wait staff interacting with a person with several disabilities. The staff took the time to communicate with the customer via a word board he carried with him. After delivering his order, the staff member spent some extra moments cutting the food into bite-sized pieces. In between waiting on other customers, the wait staff would stop at his table and feed him, something he couldn’t do on his own. Best of all – this wasn’t a one-time occurrence. No ad campaign that could achieve for Denny’s what this social media share did.

Each of these situations demonstrated the one thing consumers want more than anything in customer service – genuine, personal connection. They also demonstrate how far-reaching one action can be for your business.

The Bad: When Viral Becomes a Virus

Having stories of your exceptional customer service go viral is a great perk. But what about when the shoe falls the other direction, and it’s a customer service fail instead? Unfortunately, people are more prone to remember a negative story than a positive one. The collateral damage of a viral exposure of poor customer service can do considerable damage to the image of your business. Check out these big fails.
  • Verizon’s Lack of Sympathy for the BereaveLosing a parent is tough, no matter the age or the circumstances. In addition to dealing with grief, the family also has to handle several incidental details, like closing accounts. When a daughter attempted to close her deceased parent’s account with Verizon, her request was denied because she didn’t know the pin code. That’s understandable. However, even after receiving the death certificate for the deceased customer, Verizon continued to send monthly bills for the account and refused to give a refund. Customer service employees’ poor handling of the situation landed the company some very negative publicity. Not something any brand wants.
  • Charter Offers Flippant Answer to Storm VictimsYour home has been torn apart by a tornado; all your belongings sent sailing on the wind. What happens when you call the cable service to stop the billing? In a situation in Alabama after a tornado devastated several homes, victims were told that their accounts could be canceled, but they would still need to return the cable boxes or be fined over $200. When the customer service rep was reminded that the box flew away with the rest of the house, the rep suggested they start searching through the neighborhood debris to find their boxes. When customers began sharing this story online, Charter was quick to issue a statement saying they would correct the situation. What do you think people will remember, the customer’s complaints or Charter’s remedy? I think you can figure that out.

Apologies and corrective action are essential in combatting negative publicity, but preventative action is always better than trying to contain a virus after it has spread.

Keeping Negative Feedback Contained

There is no way to prevent negative feedback from happening. Even with great training programs and empathetic, caring employees, we all disappoint customers from time to time. At the same time, we shouldn’t just shrug our shoulders and take what comes. We can limit the spread of this “virus” by recognizing the conditions in which it thrives and taking preventative measures.
Your biggest enemy, as with any viral outbreak, is time. The quicker your response to a customer complaint or negative comment, the less likely it is to spread. To have that quick response, you need to have an early warning system in place. You don’t want to find out about the problem through Good Morning America or any other large media outlet.

Your Early Warning System

The statistics say that 67% of customer turnover could be prevented by quick and appropriate action when an issue is identified. To do that, you need to have a system in place that immediately collects feedback from all the different channels your customer might use – the phone, your website, email, social media, online review sites. Then that information must be sent immediately to the person closest to the problem, so it can be addressed in the most personal way possible. That is what Guest-Note was created to do. Contact us to learn more about this new viral protection tool.

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