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Facing Fears Part III: Complaints Department

11/16/2009

In the Facing Fears Series we’re tackling the things that make independent insurance agents nervous about using social media. Feel free to chime in: What are your fears about opening the agency up to social media? What makes you nervous?

No one wants to see complaints or negative comments about their business in a public space, but increasingly people are bringing their word of mouth marketing out of the grocery store and on to the web. We used to think about word of mouth as the exchanges that happened between people at PTO meetings, or chatting in line at the coffee shop, or neighbors talking over the fence a la Home Improvement, but word of mouth marketing now includes Facebook statuses, Twitter updates and personal blogs. And for better or worse our friend Google indexes this stuff. Gary Vaynerchuck, business owner and social media star, describes it as word of mouth on steroids.

It’s easy to see the scary side of this. What if a mistake happens at the agency, but before you have a chance to rectify this with the insured, a negative comment goes up on the web? Everyone who logs in that day sees it. Damage done. But there is a difference. The power is now with you – you now have the ability to see exactly what has been said and you can respond. You missed that opportunity when the comment was made at the PTO meeting.

Sure, you still want to respond appropriately in a private setting with that individual but you can do it in public as well.  And it’s funny, the more organizations are transparent, honest and real about their mistakes, the more consumers are willing to respond reasonably and understand that mistakes happen. (Bear in mind that I’m not suggesting that you push this theory. I’m talking about owning up to honest to goodness mistakes here).

There are companies doing a great job of allowing their complaint department to be public. Here are some great examples of this power in motion:
Comcast’s use of Twitter.
Forbes.com explains the controversial Dooce vs. Whirlpool debacle.
Hannaford Supermarket uses twitter, too, and responds to customer service inquires.
Domino’s, issued a public apology after rouge employees make a PR nightmare.

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