The news that housebuilder, Bovis Homes, has had to set aside £7 million to rectify faults in its homes, due to the pressure of their owners’ Facebook campaign – highlights the power of social media. Announced by the company in February, together with other bad news, the share price dropped by 10%, wiping £100 million off its market cap.
It all started with a group of disgruntled customers taking to Facebook to complain about how they had been treated by Bovis. More than 1,400 joined the Bovis Homes Victims group on the social network, as well as posting videos of their poorly built homes on YouTube.
Regardless of the details of what happened, once a company’s reputation is questioned, it takes a long time for it to recover. Social media is an extremely powerful medium enabling consumers to deliver messages that can shatter brands instantly, no matter how highly they were regarded.
The upshot of this is that, when it comes to customer relations, businesses across all industries must think of each customer as a connected individual – one who can pass on their negative experiences via social media, instantly and to large audiences.
The hospitality sector is particularly subject to social media chastisement. TripAdvisor has become the go-to site for holiday-makers planning a hotel stay. A large number of poor reviews will mean fewer bookings, impacting on a hotel’s business. Unfortunately, consumers weigh negative reviews more heavily than positive ones: it takes an estimated 10-12 positive reviews to make up for one negative one.
Tradespeople are also regularly held up to online scrutiny. In professions that have traditionally relied heavily on customer recommendations, online review platforms like mybuilder.com or ratedpeople.com are a natural transition. These sites allow companies and tradespeople to advertise their services, as well as being a forum for customers’ positive and negative experiences.
This culture of reviews is on the rise. Airbnb allows property owners and guests to post their experiences, whilst Uber drivers rate their passengers and vice-versa. This trend is significant – today, both seller and buyer are held to account.
Still, this increasing transparency and the growing importance given to customer experiences mean that suppliers of goods and services should never ignore complaints. What initially starts as a minor issue can grow out of proportion, unless customers feel that they are being treated respectfully, swiftly and fairly.
But, in the world of customer complaints, social media can also be an ally. If you give exceptional service, your customers may leave a glowing review – digital gold dust. Equally, if businesses handle complaints well – addressing the problem swiftly and politely; offering to speak offline or directly, to sort out the problem, and make amends – it is almost as impressive. Customers like to know that, even if things go wrong, their voices will be heard.
Social media platforms equip customers with the power of the bad review. It also connects people, so that individual customer complaints can quickly escalate. In a digital age, where customers tend to do significant research on companies before they buy products and services, customer service, PR and future sales are more linked than ever before.