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Originally published on North Tatum Times

When providing customer service, speed saves relationships.

The formula is pretty simple. When a customer writes a complaint online, review, tweet, post, etc., don’t ignore them. Respond quickly, every time, period.

Your business is not where you are, it’s where your customers are…online.

In a report by The Customer Experience Index in 2012 released by Forrester, 80% of businesses believe they are delivering superior customer service. But only 8% of customers believe they are. Businesses need to wake up and realize that more than likely, their customer service as a whole, online and in-store, sucks.

Jay Baer, one of the top social media consultants in the country and author of Hug your Haters, said it best that customer service is the new marketing. All the ads in the world aren’t going to save your business if you don’t realize that you are truly in the service business.

Customer expectations are low and for customers that do receive any response, it’s a pleasant surprise. When a company responds quickly, customers are blown away.

I have handled thousands of reviews for Pita Jungle, Riot Hospitality Group and others and I make it a priority to respond to complaints within the hour when possible but never later than the same day. The bond is stronger when you win a customer back vs. someone who has had only a positive experience. If you find that you are resource constrained, then you may want to hire a social media/guest relations manager or use ServiceGuru’s managed services.

1. Respond to ALL REVIEWS

But you have to triage, respond to negative reviews/comments EVERYWHERE, publicly. By responding publicly you not only show the customer that you care, but anyone who reads that review or comment will see your commitment to service too. Since most people read reviews (95%), not write them (5%), this is very important.

2. Respond quickly and show you care – even if it’s not perfect

To emphasize the importance of the rapid fire response needed for your customers, the next time your significant other looks in your eyes and says, “I love you”, don’t respond for 15 seconds. Good luck! After your customer posts feedback, they are left empty and if the post is about a negative experience, with each passing hour, consider how many people they will tell between now and when you respond.

Responding quickly is even more important than a well-crafted response. Don’t spend much time trying to think how to take care of the guest, just respond.

3. Take it offline

In your initial fast response to them, ask them to continue the conversation offline or in a private way.

Follow these steps and I guarantee your customer advocacy will go through the roof, you will have raving fans and you will learn a lot!