When to Talk, When to Listen

Customer interaction on social media is a funny thing, and not just because of how open it is. One of the toughest things you have to decide is when to talk and when to stop and just listen to what others are saying.

Sometimes we’re so quick to talk to fans and customers online when they post, especially if they’re saying something’s wrong. And often this is a good idea so things don’t get out of hand. But in the end are you really hearing what people are saying, or are you simply reacting as if you’re on rails?

Reaction vs. Listening

It is true that the quicker you respond to a crisis, the better, especially when it comes to the Internet. You want to be there to quash any crazy rumors that threaten to spread or douse any fires that look like they’re ready to explode.

But in the midst of all this, the true message of what the customer is saying could easily get lost. You wind up in “reaction mode” and forget there’s a real person behind the complaint. As a result, you may worry too much about your own skin.

Say a customer posts on your company’s Facebook wall that one of your products sent someone close to them to the hospital. Naturally, this is a terrible situation, and one of the worst a company can face. If word gets out your product is dangerous, you may be toast!

So naturally your first inclination is to quell the rumor. You set out to send out press releases and conduct studies to show the product is totally safe. But in the rush, you may have forgotten something: one of your customers has been hurt! They need restitution and fast.

Stop Talking

I think another part of the problem is when it comes to social media we’re often having to initiate the conversation. We want people to interact with us so they notice we exist and can therefore mention our fine products or services.

When it comes time for someone to talk to us instead, we become a little confused and flighty. After all, we’re used to doing all the talking, who is this person telling us something or other? But if you really want to understand your customer base, you have to stop talking and listen once in a while.

There’s nothing wrong with reacting, by the way. In times of crisis even a little note saying “we hear you and are working on the problem” can help ease tension. But after that, many company reps seem to “switch off” and stop listening.

When they continue talking, it’s clearly in their self-interest and doesn’t help the customer out, resulting in a loss of fans and sales. But if they’d only stopped and listened they may have avoided these potential pitfalls.

How in tune are you with your customers when they need something?

This article is written by Mickie Kennedy, founder of eReleases (, the online leader in affordable press release distribution. Grab three ebooks, including My Facebook Formula, a free report on Facebook and why you should be using the largest social network for your business, here:

One Response

  1. Emeka Onuoha says:

    In Nigeria, customer service practice is still at the Infant stage.A lot of the companies operating in Nigeria have been bitten by the Social Media bug so eveyone has a facebook page but the issue is they care less about the value of PR talk less of being concerned for a customer that deserves restitution.Anyway we shall get there by God’s grace

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