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The Ultimate Step-By-Step Guide to Selling Digital Products on Your Blog (Step Five)


Step Five Serving Cusomters

Your product is out there! You’re starting to make some money! Now you can sit back and just watch the passive income roll in, right?


One of the biggest mistakes most people make when selling digital products is thinking that the work ends after launch day. Very few people can “set it and forget it” when it comes to digital products. You need to provide great customer service to turn your fans into customers and to turn your customers into advocates.

Step Five: Continuously Serving Your Customers

Today, before ending this series of posts on selling digital products, I want to delve a little deeper into the life of a digital product after launch day. Let’s talk about…

  • Whether or not digital products are actually a source of passive income
  • Finding new customers beyond the initial burst of sales
  • Short-term customer care
  • Long-term customer care

When Passive isn’t Really Passive

Everyone always talks about how great passive income is, but the fact of the matter is this: passive income isn’t typically truly passive. Whenever you have money changing hands, customer support is needed. There will always be someone who has trouble downloading your product or logging into your website. There will always be someone who wants a refund. There will always be someone who has problems with payment processing.

This can be passive in the sense that you don’t have to be personally providing the customer support. You can instead hire a team of VAs to help you with this task. Then, all you’ll need to do is some initial training.

Just be aware that if you choose not to provide customer support, the result will not be good for your bottom line. People who have bad experiences tend to be extremely vocal on social networks. When someone googles your name/product, do you want a bunch of bad reviews to be the first thing that pops up?

Finding Customers

Launching a digital products is exciting because you typically see a rush of sales on launch day, slowly dropping off over the course of a week or two. But what then? If all you do is link to your product on your sidebar, you’re doing yourself a disservice. Every person who visits your blog is a potential sale. How much money are you missing out on, simply because you leave it up to people to figure out you have a product for sale?

So what can you do to find new customers continuously? Here are a few ideas?

  • Set up an email campaign some that when someone signs up for your mailing list, they get a message about your product.
  • Write blog posts about similar topics and link to your product at the end.
  • Write guest posts for other bloggers and mention your product in your bio or even within the post if relevant.
  • Run promotions throughout the year, offering discounts or free trials.
  • Work with your affiliates for special promotions.
  • Host a Google+ Hangout and talk about your product.
  • Come up with a plan to mention your product on social networks on a regular basis.
  • Create free products related to your paid product to give away, then upsell to the full product.
  • Do a free webinar about a related topic and talk about your product at the end.

Short-Term Customer Care

Short-term customer service is all about taking care of problems, right? Well, kind of. Problems should be your main focus, since these are opportunities to turn a bad situation into a good situation. However, don’t ignore your customers who are singing your praises or you biggest group of customers–the ones who say nothing at all.

Create an automated email sequence so that about a week after your product is purchased, the customer receives an email follow up. Ask for feedback, offer a surprise bonus, or simply thank them a second time. You want that “second touch” with each customer to show that you really do care.

Make sure you reply to anyone who emails you, even if they are not inquiring (or yelling!) about a problem. The people who love your product or just have a question are the people who will sing your praises if you give them a little attention. We all like to feel like we’re important. When you personally reply to someone, even to just say thank you, you’re making your customers feel noticed.

While I do advocate you doing this yourself, you can have a VA help you manage this part as well by categorizing your emails so you can reply more quickly.

Long-Term Customer Care

Think about how you’re going to connect with your customers long-term as well. Why should you care? Because they’ll give you even more money! When you have another product for sale, someone who has felt they received a lot of value from you in the past is going to pull out their credit card a second time.

It’s about more than a great product. You do want to be sure that what you’re selling is awesome. But more importantly, if you go that extra mile, you’ll have people begging you for another product or even giving you more money in the form of a donation. Pat Flynn once told a story about people purchasing a product from him that they didn’t even need just to say “thank you” for his free help in the past!

The key is VALUE. Here are a few ways you can offer long-term value:

  • Offer a free “second edition” version of your book to people who purchased in the past.
  • Ask your customers to become affiliates so they can earn a little income from recommending your product.
  • Engage with customers on social networks. Beyond just talking about your product, get to know them and share their links from time to time.
  • Create a community around your product, offering forums, Facebook groups, etc. for customers to talk to one another.
  • Do a call/webinar with your customers around the 3-month-since-launch mark to answer any lingering questions.
  • Touch base via occasional emails.

The point is this: keep people involved. Then, when you have another product for sale or want a boost in sales for your current product, ASK your community of customers to help you! They can…

  • Tweet, pin, and otherwise share via social networks
  • Send emails to their friends and followers
  • Write testimonials
  • Review your product on other sites

So, while you might be thinking of your digital product as a passive source of income, if you put some more time into building a community around the product, you’ll sell more products over the long term. Passive? Not really. Profitable? Absolutely!

I hope this series has helped you prepare for selling your next digital product. Remember to check out all of the other posts in the series if you haven’t already!


See Other Posts in This Series:

  1. Step One: Building Relationships
  2. Step Two: Choosing the Perfect Product
  3. Step Three: Creating Your Product
  4. Step Four: Planning Your Launch
  5. Step Five: Servicing Your Customers (this post)

Image credit (altered): Bigstock

“Own the Good You Do”: Scott Stratten’s Advice for Businesses on Twitter


scott stratten Every time a business joins Twitter, an angel gets its wings. It means they’re going to at least try the social media thing. Getting businesses to realize the power of social media is half the battle.

Whether or not they use this platform well is another story. Recently, I like the advice Scott Stratten wrote on his blog, UnMarketing, about the art of engaging with your fans, not just responding to customer complaints. Writes Scott,

Own the good you do. Value the positive voice.  It’s too easy only to focus on the negative.  You need to make time to thank customers who love what you do.  Be proud and say thank you. […]

Don’t leave all those high-fives hanging.  Take time away from fighting fires, and seeking out new customers, to thank the ones you have. This is the where the opportunity for brand endearment begins.  Don’t value your customers based only on purchases already made.  A happy customer is your best marketer.  Grow those relationships.”

There is absolutely positively no better marketing tool than word of mouth, and that’s not something you can buy. Think about it: when you’re going to make a large purchase, what’s more important: what the company says about themselves or what others are saying about the company? I will spend more money based on a friend’s recommendation, and I’m not alone. A 2010 study by Opinion Research Corp revealed that 59% of consumers consult friends and family members to get their opinions before making a purchase.

All it takes, sometimes, is a little recognition. A simple thank you on Twitter is the equivalent of a smile and a “come again” when someone is leaving your brick-and-mortar store.

Check out the rest of Scott’s post and his entire UnMarketing blog for more advice on using Twitter for your business.

Did you see our recent announcement?

We’re proud to announce that Scott is presenting a keynote at NMX 2014 in January. He’s always one of our highest-rated speakers, and we loved his keynote in 2010. See more information about Scott and the rest of our recently-announced keynoters here!

Want a free recording of one of Scott’s previous sessions? Check out this giveaway!

Online Membership Communities: Success is About Service


Recently, NMX launched a brand new online membership site, NMX University. Premium members have access to our 2013 Virtual Ticket through NMX University, but there is also a basic membership area of the site where people can access a handful of virtual sessions, our library of ebooks, and other content for free. Yours truly is managing the content on NMX University (with tons of help from the rest of the NMX staff).

I’ve run and been involved in membership communities in the past, and what I’ve found time and time again is that success hinges on how well you provide service to your members. Content might still be “king” online, but even the best content will fail in a membership community without great customer service.

The VIP Mentality

Members of a community are all VIPs, whether they pay for premium content or not. People are quick to complain and because everyone is used to getting so much free stuff online, there’s a real sense of entitlement online. I don’t say this to complain. Frankly, I think people should feel entitled. Whether we pay for something or not, we are all entitled to be treated with respect. So if you aren’t treating all of your members like VIPs, you’re missing the boat.

Now, this certainly doesn’t mean that you should bend to every demand. What it does mean is that you should promptly respond to questions, apologize for problems, and take everyone’s suggestions into account. When you give someone the option of being a member of your site – even a free member – you have an obligation to provide customer service. If you don’t want to service non-paying members, don’t have a free membership option.

At NMX University, whether you are a free member or a paid member, I will respond to your emails within 24 hours. If I don’t, that’s an indication that I haven’t received it. Everyone is a VIP in my book.

“Prompt” has a New Definition

It used to be that a prompt reply was six to eight weeks. You had to write to a company and wait for a response (if you got one at all), and often your problem was a moot point by the time a solution was proposed.

Today, people have a new definition of “prompt.” That’s why I do my very best to respond to all customer service emails for NMX University within 24 hours. Even that much time – yes, less than one day – can seem like a long time when it comes to online content, so I try to respond even faster when at all possible.

People have short attention spans, so you have to help them quickly if you want to maintain a good relationship. A response within the hour will get a much more positive reaction than the same response three days later. Not only that, but people aren’t afraid to complain in a very public way (on Twitter, Facebook, etc.) if they think they are being ignored.

Your Definition of Clear isn’t Everyone’s Definition of Clear

“User-friendly” means something different to everyone. What might seem really clear to you might not be clear at all to your members. That’s why I’m constantly tweaking the usability of NMX University (without making drastic changes that confuse people) so members have the best user experience possible.

People will have suggestions for you. Some people will not be nice about these suggestions. I’ve been called stupid, ignorant, and a host of others things from people who don’t like the design and usability of membership sites I’ve helped create. Don’t take it personally. I actually keep a folder of the emails I get from people praising sites so I can read them whenever I get the occasionally mean or critical email. You can’t please everyone, but what is important is that you set aside your ego and take others’ suggestions into consideration. Already, NMX University is better thanks to user suggestions and we’re only getting started.

You’ll Catch More Flies with Honey

Lastly, I’ll leave you with a piece of advice my mother gave me when I was young: You’ll catch more flies with honey than you will with vinegar. That is, even when people are being complete jerks, the situation will turn out better if you’re as nice as possible instead of mean or aggressive.

Even when your membership community is loved by 99.99% of people, there will always be that .01% who send angry emails for some reason or another. It’s easy to be angry right back, but remember: You set the tone for your company. If your reply is apologetic and sincere, you’ll be surprised at just how many people change their tune and even apologize for overreacting in their previous email. Because I listen to people, address concerns politely, respond quickly, and apologize for their frustration – even when they are in the wrong – over half the time, I get much happier email responses the next time around, even if the problem hasn’t been solved yet.

I hope you’ll take some time to check out NMX University and put my customer service to the test. For those of you out there also running membership communities, what are some of your best tips for success? Leave a comment below!

Photo Credit: Bigstock

Consumers Are Connected: Are You?


Just the other day, I went shopping with a friend of mine who is obsessed with her phone. She checked into the mall via Foursquare, telling others exactly where she intended to shop. We found some cute shoes, which prompted her to like the brand on Facebook, and before leaving the store, she double-checked movie times for the film we wanted to see. We had some time, so we stopped for a bite to eat before the movie, and of course, she had to share a picture of her meal on Instagram. During the movie was the longest she was away from her phone all day!

It’s easy for me to point fingers and snicker at my friend’s phone addiction, but I’m not much better. Even when I’m at home, I sometimes find myself using my laptop, phone, and Kindle at the same time.

Today’s consumers are connected. There’s no doubt about that. The only question is this: is your business connected too or are you being left behind in the dust?

Social Trust

At BusinessNext Social 2013, Mobile Marketing Academic of the Year Lin Humphrey will be be presenting “The Connected Consumer,” a session where he’ll talk about his study findings on psychographics of social media users and what some digital marketers are doing to feed into this need for connection.

In an interview with USA Today, Humphrey remarked, “Research shows we trust our network more than advertisements or celebrity spokespeople, so it makes sense for a business to encourage photography and social endorsements.”

Social networks enable this kind of sharing, but what is your company doing to connect with consumers who want to use these networks?

  • Are you easy to find on social networks?
  • Do you reply to consumers’ questions and complaints via social media?
  • Are you actively looking for people talking about your company?
  • Do you reward social sharing, encouraging customers to talk about your company online?
  • Do you say thank you when people are complimentary about your company?

You have to be able to scale your social media efforts; talking to every single customer or potential customer isn’t sustainable. But you’d be amazed at what any kind of social presence can do for your company.

Best Online Marketing Practices

So what can your digital marketing team do to engage consumers via social media? There’s a laundry list of techniques, but something the best marketing campaigns have in common is enabling self-expression and connectivity not just to the brand, but to other users.

  • Clothing company Betabrand gives $20 discounts to users who take pictures of themselves wearing Betabrand items.
  • Coke and Pepsi both unveiled programs allowing consumers to buy a soda for someone else at a random vending, and then watch the receiver’s surprised reaction. The person could then send back a thank you note.
  • Back in 2004, Burger King already realized the power of online self-expression and connectivity. In the “subservient chicken” campaign, they allowed users to log online and give an actor in a chicken suit commands to follow. The site is still live to this day, and promotes Burger King’s “have it your way” philosophy.

Of course, hiring an actor in a chicken suit isn’t the right course of action for all businesses, but there’s still something to learn here about connecting directly with your audience. For even more “best practices” and tips for digital marketers who want to reach the customers, make sure you attend The Connected Consumer session at BusinessNext.

How Businesses Can “Go Undercover” Using Social Media


I was flipping through the channels early today and landed on a show I had never heard of before called Undercover Boss. The concept is simple – someone high up in management at a large corporation goes undercover, posing as a new worker in an entry-level position. At the end, their co-workers are surprised with the truth and hard-working employees are given awesome rewards. The company gets the added benefit of learning a little something about about how their business workers at the basic level.

The episode that was airing had Don Fertman from Subway posing as a “sandwich artist” (aka, the person behind the counter who makes your sub) at four different locations. It was comical to see others get frustrated with him as a new employee and heartwarming to see him surprise four deserving people with awesome prizes, like scholarships and vacations, after revealing who he really was.

As a small business owner, or even a mid- to large-sized business owner, you might not have the ability to go undercover and learn about your business from the trenches, but you can “go undercover” in a sense – with social media!

One of the things I simultaneously love and hate about the Internet is that people are brutally honest. Most will speak their mind without a second thought because there’s the protection of the computer screen, which makes things seem more anonymous even though your name and picture could be right beside your comment. Brazen commenters can be a bit annoying, but as a business owner, you can also learn from them. Here are a few steps I recommend you take to go undercover online and find out what people really think about your company:

  • Read the tips on FourSquare and other location-based services.

Oh, the problems that could be solved if only the management would read the tips people give about their companies online! The other day, I checked into a small family restaurant and the top tip was that people should “get there early for dinner because the wait is really long.” Obviously, the person who left that comment still thinks the restaurant is worth visiting, and even getting there early…but that doesn’t mean you should consider it a victory if you’re the restaurant owner. If the top thing people have to say about your restaurant is that the wait is long, think about ways you could solve that. Could you add more tables? Hire more staff to handle the dinner rush? Offer a happy hour at the bar that people can enjoy while waiting? Even if people aren’t complaining doesn’t mean that you can’t improve.

  • Follow your employees on Twitter.

Some people lock their Twitter accounts, but most keep them public so others can see what they’re saying. Find your employees on there and follow them – under an anonymous name. If your employees see you following them, it may make them think twice before saying anything about their job or co-workers, so keep it on the down low and just see what they are saying. Do they think their boss is an idiot? Hopefully that isn’t you! Invite them into your office to talk about what they would do differently if in change. Do they promote your company even on their off hours? Reward them with an extra Christmas bonus. Do they tweet while at work? FIRE THEM! Just kidding – actually, take this as a criticism of how your workday is structured. Tons of tweets even though all the work is getting done might mean that your employee is bored working at a job below his ability level, for example.

  • Use search functions to see what your customers are saying.

You should definitely be doing this if you aren’t already. Monitor the conversation about your company and answer as many people as possible whenever you’re mentioned. It’s easiest to do this on Twitter, in my opinion, but you should also be responsive on Facebook and other sites that make sense for your niche. You can’t solve every problem, but you can show that you’re listening. And – this is important – actually listen. If a customer complains that the t-shirt your company sent was too small, the answer isn’t just to send him or her a refund. The answer is to send the refund and take a look at the sizing information on your website to see if it is accurate or post more information about your clothing running a little small in size. The point is not only to fix problems, but to avoid the same problems in the future.

How does your small business use social media to monitor the conversation and improve your products/services? I’d love to hear your tips in a comment below!

Meet the Blogger: Miriam Gomberg, A Customer Experience Connoisseur


Meet the Blogger is a feature here at the BlogWorld blog where we introduce you to some of newest bloggers in various niches. Today, we’re talking with Miriam Gomberg, who blogs at MiriamGomberg.wordpress.com about her experiences as a “customer experience connoisseur.” Check out his interview below, as well as the full list of Meet the Blogger interviews (including instructions for participating).

Allison: Thanks for the interview, Miriam! Tell us a little about you and your blog.

Miriam: I have either owned, operated or worked in retail since I was 16 for my parents and through the years, have gained a healthy perspective of what creates a superior customer experience. In my late 30’s I closed my business of 15 years went back to school and finished a degree. Now I am working on an MBA to add to my list of accomplishments. My blog’s tagline is “a customer experience connoisseur.”

What initially attracted you to blogging and why did you choose to blog about customer service?

I started blogging when my friends took a class on personal branding in the MBA program and loved it so I decided to try it as well. I have learned tons about social media since beginning the class and I expect to continue blogging well after the class is over. I chose my topic (customer service) by really taking some time to think about what I do that makes me unique and how can I contribute knowledge and opinions about a topic that I am passionate about. I am still narrowing my niche because blogging is still new to me.
I think it’s great that you started blogging as part of a college class. Do you think blogging/social media is a topic area that colleges need to cover in more detail? Or is too much focus being taking away from more traditional branding and marketing topics?

The personal branding class (that I just finished) was my favorite class throughout my tenure as an MBA student. There is value in this class for anyone trying to set herself apart in a competitive market. During the last 3 classes, each student presented his or her brand to the class, and the talent and diversity was astounding. One girl branded herself as a vitamin expert because her family owns a vitamin production factory, and a guy in class branded himself as an expert in a very specific application for SAP. I think that more colleges and universities should offer a class like this. In an MBA program, plenty of classes are dedicated to more traditional marketing/branding topics. Dr Simmons was innovative in his approach and as a result, I plan to continue fine tuning my brand.

What are some of the challenges you’re facing as someone who’s new to blogging?

Like other bloggers, my challenges include: traffic (reaching a desired audience), topic inspiration, and time.

What’s the single most important lesson you’ve learned so far as a blogger?

Be myself. Over and above any of my skills, this is what makes me  unique.

I love how you use stories from your personal life to illustrate lessons in customer service! Is this something you planned from the beginning or did it just evolve naturally as you continued to blog? Why did you chose this style over the less personable style that is common in the business niche?

Thank you for saying that you enjoy the story telling as that is how I communicate best. My communication style is very personal and It was a natural extension to write in the same manner as I speak. In reading other blogs, I am drawn in by a bloggers voice. If  he or she is too impersonal and dry, I quickly lose interest.

You mentioned that you chose to blog about customer service in part because you’re passionate about that topic. How important is it, in your opinion, for a blogger to be passionate about there topic? Do you think it is more or less important than expertise or experience in the niche?

Passion for your topic is imperative to a good blog. As an ESFJ personality, if I don’t feel the passion, it is hard to fake it. Topic expertise is important but by itself can be boring. Why are you an expert in a subject if you don’t feel anything for it? Passion has made me into an effective leader, student, etc.

What blogging topics do you hope to learn more about in the coming months?

I want to hear about how others also got started and why they continue to blog.

Thanks for the great interview, Miriam! Readers, make sure you check out her customer service blog, and you can also follow her on Twitter @miriamgomberg.

Four Lessons to Learn from Sony’s Security Breach


As many of you may know, Sony’s PlayStation Network was recently hacked, which is a major problem since many users had saved their credit card information to buy games online. The service is still down, and some users are entering into a class action lawsuit against Sony, claiming negligence since their personal information wasn’t properly protected. No hacker group has laid claim to the initial attack, though this past weekend, Sony seems to have thwarted another attempt to hack their network, according to reports, this time from a group of people angry at how Sony handled the security breach.

Sony’s PlayStation Network might seem impossibly huge compared to the membership sites that most bloggers run, but there are some important lessons to learn no matter how many people are a part of your community. In fact, some of these lessons are helpful for bloggers who don’t even have paid membership sites – they’re just lessons in customer service and building a community.

Lesson #1: Be honest.

Sony’s problem may have been caused by negligence (I’ll let the courts decide that), but the reason people are so angry about it is that it took several days for Sony to alert people that there had been a problem. Instead of being able to cancel their cards immediately, users were unaware of the problem, leaving their information open for the taking.

Lesson #2: Fix problems thoroughly.

One of the things that Sony is doing right, in my opinion, is that they are taking time to make sure the system is super secure for users before putting it back online. While people are certainly grumbling about how long this is taking, the PlayStation Network is extremely vulnerable to attacks right now, and if they rush to put it back online before it is completely ready, there could be another problem either immediately or in the near future. One major security problem is bad enough – two would be beyond disastrous.

Lesson #3: When there’s a problem, eat the users’ costs – and give them some extra freebies.

Sony is offering free ID theft protection to all users who had their information compromised. They didn’t stop there, though – they are also giving users free content and a free month of premium membership when the system comes back online. If you mess up, especially when there’s money involved, you have to not only reimburse you community, but you must also give them something even more. It’s the cost of doing business – when you mess up, it’s going to be expensive if you want to keep your fans.

Lesson #4: Don’t get complacent when it comes to user experience.

This problem happened for Sony because their system wasn’t probably secure. It might have been in the past, but the world evolves, and Sony got complacent. That’s a strong lesson for any blogger – once you’re popular and you’ve made promises to your readers, you have to continually set the bar higher and higher. If you get complacent, problems will occur.

Dealing with problems is never fun, but if you’re a business owner, they’re going to happen. Hopefully, you can take away a few of the lessons learn from Sony’s problems and apply them to your own issues to you continue to provide the best user experience possible, even if there is a major problem.

Do We Have To Go Back To The Future For Good Customer Service?


… by Judy Helfand

A little background:
Right out of the gate I admit I have never seen any part of the Back to the Future trilogy. Not one. If you asked me a Trivial Pursuit question about this series I would not know the answer, except that I do know the main character was played by Michael J. Fox. But it was not until last evening that I learned the name of the main character: Marty McFly! If any of you are wondering why I missed this trilogy here you go: From 1985 – 1990 I was raising two little boys, serving as a Vice President for a major New England bank and (with my husband) owning and operating a country inn, focusing on providing good customer service to build repeat business. More importantly, I don’t care for science fiction!

Now let’s talk about Super Bowl:

Did you watch the Super Bowl? Did you follow or participate in tweeting #brandbowl or #superbowl? I watched for the “show”: I like to hear our National Anthem, I like the Honor Guard, I like watching the commercials, and usually half-time offers memorable performances. I don’t live in an NFL city and the last Super Bowl team I really rooted for was my hometown San Diego Chargers in Super Bowl XXIX. But today I want to talk about one of the commercials from Super Bowl XLV.

Can you guess which one? If you picked CarMax’s Back to the Future parody, then you are correct. But you know what? I think I might be one of a small minority that didn’t even realize this ad was a take-off of the Back to the Future’s Marty McFly character. Watch it here.

Do you know Good Customer Service when you see it?

When I watched this CarMax’s ad I didn’t think about Marty McFly (but of course, I didn’t even know about Marty McFly) I thought about what life was like when my own father owned a Service Station from 1955-1963. I thought about the first blog post I wrote in August 2007 SMO – The Old Fashioned Way. You see the keyword is Service. These were not just filling stations or gas stations, they were Service Stations. You felt comfortable when you pulled in, someone was going to help you with gas, air, water, oil, directions, a cold drink, clean your windows and provide a clean bathroom. You had your favorite service stations and the attendant probably knew your name.

What caught my attention in the CarMax ad is that the young Marty didn’t know what to make of all the service he was receiving and he didn’t trust what he was seeing. He was actually frightened. It is a funny little commercial, but the CarMax message is strong ‘At CarMax we believe that Customer Service shouldn’t be a thing of the past!’ That may be, but how many of us are like Marty? Do you know good customer service when you see it?

My father taught me about customer service. I have followed his example over the years with my customers/clients/guests and just yesterday I had a teleconference planned with a potential client. I was to call him at 11:00AM. I did. He answered the phone and after I introduced myself he immediately said: “I can’t believe it, you called me right on time!”

I know we are all pretty adept at tweeting and blogging when we don’t like something a company has done or not done (think Kenneth Cole or GROUPON™). Maybe part of the problem in our current business environment is that even though companies can communicate with potential customers using all the latest ‘tools’, it does not follow that those potential customers have the ability to recognize good customer service even when they see it. What tools do you use both as a provider and as a consumer?

Let me know what you think? Do you know good service when you see it?

Judy Helfand is an owner of Webconsuls, LLC., functioning as a Project Manager. She has worked for a number of Fortune 500 companies in both the banking and insurance industry and she has succesfully owned and operated two small businesses. Judy’s personal blog is Judy’s Op-Ed and she also writes and manages Webconsuls’ Blog. Feel free to follow her Twitter @judyhelfand.

Social Networking Fail: Price Chopper Lashes Out about Negative Tweet


Some companies are doing a great job at getting involved with social networking. On Facebook, I connect with Einstein Bagels, for example, and they post coupons, poll fans, and respond to both positive and negative comments quickly. Other companies are ignoring social networking, which is definitely going to bite them in the tush in the end, in my opinion. Twitter, Facebook, and other social media sites aren’t going away.

The worst offenders aren’t the companies that don’t use social networking at all, though – they’re the companies that don’t use social networking correctly. In the end, they’re damaging their businesses and driving potential fans (and people who will buy their products) directly into the hands of their competitors. The latest offender is Price Chopper, a grocery store in the northeastern part of the United States. They actually serve the area where I live, and because of this story, I’m thinking twice about whether or not I want to continue shopping there.

The story, according to a Tumblr page set up specifically to deal with the event, is that an unidentified (but public at the time) shopper tweeted:

Every time I go to @PriceChopperNY I realize why they r not @wegmans . Tonight -bare produce area & this sign 4 ex http:// (link was removed in the story)

Undoubtedly, this is not what Price Chopper wants to hear. It’s especially annoying to be compared to a competitor and told that you’re not good enough. The way the public relations department responded, though? Unthinkable, maybe even borderline illegal. Definitely ethically wrong.

What they did was email the customer directly and then, before she even had the time to respond, use the information in her profile to find her employer. They emailed a list of executives from that company and, according to the Tumblr blog, called her “destructive and negative” and hinted that the relationship between Price Chopper and this second company could be at risk if actions weren’t taking against this employee.

Social. Networking. Fail. Customer. Service. Fail. Fail. Fail Fail.

First a foremost, it is important to understand that no employee represents the company where they work unless they are tweeting/blogging/etc under the official corporate name or working at the time. She was an individual grocery shopping. I think it’s pretty easy to see the difference. Anyone who understands social networking at all knows the difference between a personal blog and a blog that represents a company.

Secondly, and more importantly, as American citizens, freedom of speech protects our liberty to express our opinions, even negative opinions. To call someone destructive just because they had a critical comment or made public their bad experience with a company is ludicrous. I haven’t read the email, but it sounds like what they sent to her employers is borderline blackmail. It’s absurd.

If you aren’t able to take criticism from your customers, you’ll never grow as a company. Her comments were even fairly mild. It wasn’t like she was ranting or cursing or something. She was just making it known that she had a bad experience. She should not have to worry about her job because of that. I hope her employers are intelligent enough to realize that.

I do believe that employers have the right to ask you not to tweet negatively about their companies or partners. But if that’s the case, you need to make a social networking policy for your employees from the start, not punish them after the fact. Even so, there’s a difference between bad-mouthing a company and saying something critical.

The bottom line is that this was an opportunity for Price Chopper to make a really good impression via social networking. They could have responded with an apology or even offered her some free products or a discount for her troubles. The Dominoes campaign to make their business better is being extremely well received, and they’re not only responding to problems, but asking customers to come at them with problems so they can be fixed. Consumers realize that no company is perfect. It’s all about your effort to be better.

Photo via Wikipedia.

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