Frustrating Forum ComplaintsOne of the most frustrating parts of doing business in the aftermarket performance parts industry these days is dealing with customers (or would-be customers) who jump online and start bashing your business before (or instead of) contacting you to work through the problem. Instead, they log on to their favorite online forum or social media outlet and start bad mouthing your shop. Sound familiar? Don’t be like the countless businesses I’ve witnessed mishandle these “opportunities” in various automotive enthusiast forums. Turn the situation into a billboard for your shop! Here’s how…

RESPOND QUICKLY

Don’t allow the discussion to go on too long before you reply. You are monitoring online discussions about your business regularly aren’t you? Of course you are! It’s critical these days. Jump into the conversation immediately. Too many people not involved in the situation will be tempted to throw in their two cents, and if the discussion is left unattended it makes your company look bad. The sooner you get involved in the thread, the more trust you’ll build with the community.

KEEP YOUR COOL!

The first reaction most shop owners will have is to go in and defend themselves, trying to point out the flawed logic of the customer. DON’T DO IT! Though this reaction is perfectly natural, what you really want to do is use this opportunity to show off the excellent customer service your would-be customers can expect when dealing with your business. Don’t get defensive and don’t attempt to point out the customer’s incompetence. Even if you’re in the right it will only work against you. Show empathy and sincerity in your tone. It’s a good idea to come up with a standard script to keep a consistent cadence.

If you have someone handling this side of the business for you, choose that person very carefully. It should be someone who displays empathy, patience and emotional maturity – someone who is articulate, professional, and savvy when dealing with the public. Your business depends heavily on the actions and judgement of this person, as they become the most forward facing figure in your company.

TAKE THE DISCUSSION OFFLINE

Ask the person to call you directly to discuss the situation. This will take the discussion offline to help prevent further negative comments by the reviewer and those not involved in the situation. It’s okay to publicly admit that mistakes might have been made (without getting into details about exactly what the mistakes were) and that you would like the chance to correct them to make sure the customer gets taken care of. This shows that you value customer satisfaction.

TAKE CARE OF THE CUSTOMER

Make the customer happy – obvious, right? Doing so will create brand advocates and will help generate future business. In the rare situation where you’re not able to fix the situation with the customer and they continue to talk badly about you in the forums it is usually best to post a professional reply that lets everyone know that you’re committed to customer service and that you’ll gladly discuss the situation with any customer who has concerns. No need to publicly defend yourself beyond that. Chances are that if the user starts sounding like a troll you’ll get your other customers in defending your name for you. I would check with the moderators to see if they can keep an eye on the thread to ensure no slander takes place and even ask to lock the thread if it gets out of hand. Chances are they won’t do anything about it but at least you’ve brought it to their attention.

A quick recap:

  1. Respond early.
  2. Keep your cool and don’t sound defensive.
  3. Take the discussion offline.
  4. Do what you can to fix the situation.

The trick is to show people that you’re responsive, you pay attention to what’s going on in the community you serve, and you strive to perform to the highest possible standards of customer service. Remember, you’re not just solving the problem for this one customer, you’re solving it for all potential customers reading that thread. The way you handle the situation will give future customers a good indication of how they can expect to be treated when doing business with you.

If you need help monitoring your shop’s online reputation in forums and social media feel free to contact us.