Transparency in business has long been a staple of good customer service, engaging customers and reassuring them about the products and services they are paying for. Now that companies are operating in a global economy, transparency is an even more valuable consideration for companies with an online presence. One of the greatest marketing values of the Internet is that it gives businesses of all sizes the ability to open their doors to customers who would otherwise not be able to get an “inside peek” at how a company operates.
Before the commercial Web began to boom in the mid-1990s, companies for the most part relied on paper and traditional media to deliver transparency to their customers-newsletters, flyers, mass mailings, newspaper and magazine articles, etc. Those efforts to establish transparency were one-sided and usually tightly controlled by the company, and customers were handed only the information the company wanted them to know. And when consumers had a problem or found themselves dissatisfied in any way, they could complain to the management, their family, and their friends-only a handful of people knew about the problem.
In today’s global marketplace, the burgeoning world of social media makes it easier than ever for a company to let consumers know all the inner workings of the business. But it is also easier than ever for criticism and complaints to be voiced loudly and heard by thousands or millions of people around the world. Instead of making a phone call to a customer service department or the Better Business Bureau, all someone has to do is type a critical comment on a social media site such as Facebook or Twitter, and the criticism can become viral and spread throughout the Internet to whoever wants to read it. Even worse, critical comments posted to social media sites do not have to be verified or supported by facts, they can be posted anonymously, and they can say whatever the writer wants to say without fear of recrimination.
No company is without its problems, and there will always be at least one customer with an axe to grind. There are also going to be unscrupulous companies out there attacking their competitors online. But fear of criticism shouldn’t keep you from inviting consumers to learn more about your business. Consumer criticism, although troublesome and frustrating, need not be seen as a threat to the good name of your business. The only way criticism can really hurt your business is if you ignore it.
Social media sites certainly offer consumers the chance to critique products and services both positively and negatively, but they also give you an opportunity to engage your customers and potential customers. Regularly visiting social media sites to read what people are saying about your business gives you the opportunity to address any concerns or problems they may have, so that any negative buzz about your business can be turned around into a positive result. Instead of feeling threatened by the open forum provided by social media sites, you should think of them as an open door where you can invite the world in to learn more about your business.
[tags]social media, online reputation, transparency, global economy[/tags]