Recently, a scuffle broke out on the wall of a Facebook page that I like. The business promotes daily deals for small, independent vendors (sort of like a Groupon for Etsy) and one of these deals went bad. Products that were promised by Christmas were not there until after (if at all), and those who had received the product found out that it didn’t fit as promised. To top things off, the seller was caught being dishonest in the process, and had stopped responding to questions.
With well over 1,000 customers having purchased the deal, it didn’t take long for the situation to blow up on the Facebook page of the business. While there were some nasty comments, many people were just looking to get their questions answered about where their product was, or how to get a refund. Before everything was sorted out the company shut off commenting on their page and left a rather terse note instead, saying that any further questions should be emailed to them.
What followed was a pretty interesting look at what people outside of the digital marketing industry think of digital marketing. There were a few folks who suggested that this was a bad idea, that customers were looking for an efficient way to get their questions answered, and that hiding the bad about your business in this day and age is not a good plan. This is the side I fall on, but it turns out there are also a lot of people who would disagree. They said things like:
“Companies did just fine before Facebook, they’ll do just fine now.”
“Good to see a company take a stand against people that just want to complain publicly.”
“Facebook is NOT a great business solution to handle customer service.”
“Anyone who has a problem with any business and doesn’t email or telephone first, but rather posts on social media first, is just a passive aggressive cyber bully.”
Pretty surprising comments, when you consider what we as marketers preach every day. And despite those who would disagree, I stick with the message from marketers. If they had left the comments up, and responded professionally, I doubt any of the above customers would have left, never to purchase again. They will never know how many silent customers were turned off. And at the end of the day, they have put out the seed that perhaps they do have something to hide.
Your friend, you neighbor, the lady next to you in line may not be on the boat with social media, and opening yourself up online. But trust us marketers (please) when we say that the damage caused by going silent is often far worse than the damage caused by facing a problem head on.