How to Handle Unsatisfied Customers

Complaints are inevitable when you provide products or services to customers, because there is simply no such thing as 100% satisfaction across your entire market. There will always be customers with expectations which you cannot meet, or those who will misunderstand your offerings completely. It is because of this that customer service is a crucial part of any business, and that, in turn, is why customer care call centers are now so common.

But with the boom of social media, handling unsatisfied customers has proven to be a rather big challenge. A few taps and clicks can change the perception of hundreds to thousands of people, and it is every marketing person’s nightmare to be the center of a complaint posted on social media.

Though there is very little you can do about a customer’s posted complaint once it is made public, there are, however, many ways of handling the problem. There even lies the possibility of turning the situation around. So, what are some ways you can serve irate or unsatisfied customers?

1. Apologize for the mistake

Let’s admit it: apologizing and swallowing your pride are two very underrated and underappreciated actions. The more natural response to a complaint would be to get defensive, but that would only lead to fighting fire with fire.

When a person is enraged and unsatisfied, the best way to start off your end of the conversation is to say, “Sorry.”

2. Address the customer right away – publicly

In such situations, the worst thing you can do for your business is to let the situation drag on. Ignoring a person’s negative feedback could only cause more anger to build up, or worse, it could make everyone think that you do not care at all. Remember that social media could work for you too, so do not be afraid to respond to complaints, especially if the mistakes can still be rectified.

Start by showing your customer that you are giving appropriate attention to his or her concern, and that you are publicly taking responsibility for his or her dissatisfaction. Make it clear that you wish to correct the situation.

3.  Offer a precise solution

Without overpromising, try to be clear about the next step. Especially if the solution might require further expenses on the company, or if you (as an administrator of social media accounts) do not have the authority to promise customers whatever they want, be open and transparent about how the situation will proceed.

4.  Offer a re-do or a replacement, along with additional benefits, when possible.

More often than not, the customers simply want to get the best out of what they paid for. If they were not satisfied with your product or service, what you can do is offer them a re-do or a replacement.

If it was a service, assure them that you will be putting them in the hands of your best staff members, who will be doing their best to provide high-quality service. If it was a product, ensure that you will do everything in your power to provide their money’s worth.

5. Take the conversation offline

Although it would be advantageous to show other potential clients how good you are at customer service, try not to discuss the details of your problem and solution in public. It would be best if a representative of your company offered to meet the customer to discuss the issue further. In cases when that would be too much to ask, a management-level representative may also just call the client and present ways by which you can make up for the mistake.

Just remember that, to an irate client, seeing an actual face, or experiencing the actual presence of a company representative will do wonders in letting them know you care.

In the end, the customer is truly king. For as long as their complaints are within reason, and are actually constructive enough for the company to recognize some areas for improvement, there is no reason why negative feedback should be ignored. A simple apology and some effort to make up for a mistake or misunderstanding could go a very long way, and could even develop some good will between clients and your company.

This post was contrbuted by Sheine Austria. Sheine is a professional writer whose passion is digital media, technology and blogging. She also used to do some photography in her college days. Sheine is also a single mother and decided to transfer to California and discover her future there.

A Beginner’s Guide to Pinterest for Marketing

Pinterest actually launched in 2010, even though it took off the start of last year as users the world over went pin crazy. Just take a look at this impressive growth graph!

Now the website has over 11 million users and is still growing, with some of the most popular pin boards including holiday destinations, interiors inspiration and recipes – perfect for those in the hospitality industry.

While businesses like fashion brands and home decor stockists do do very well on Pinterest, there’s a place for those in the hotel, bed and breakfast and restaurant industry too, provided you go about it strategically.

A Picture Says a Thousand Words

Pinterest is a very visual social network. Images are the main focus, with just enough room for a clever caption and none at all for status updates and messages to friends. This makes it a fantastic tool for the hospitality sector where beautiful, high quality images of premises, food and surroundings are rife.

Picture says a thousand words
If you’re still uploading lower quality pictures, the best thing to do is invest in a good camera. It doesn’t even have to be an SLR as compact digital cameras are being increasingly manufactured to produce better quality images for less. You’d be surprised by the difference a professional looking photograph can make to a potential customer.

Pinterest users love sharing images that capture not just their eye but their imagination, and are the ones most likely to be shared by their own followers too, therefore being passed on to a much wider audience and increasing the original pinner’s visibility.

Variety is the Spice of Life

Although Pinterest does differ from other social networks in a few ways, the key best practices of not being too salesy and mixing up your content to cater for different visitor tastes still remains, just like Visit Savannah does.

Four Seasons Varied Pinterest Board

For a decent variety, for each board you create to showcase your business, create another that showcases inspiration for the same subject. For example, when creating a board full of images of your beautiful rooms start an additional one named something like ‘Hotel room inspiration.’ The same goes for things like the food you cook and recipe inspiration, and your business’ location or what to do there and your own dream holiday destinations.

You could even create a board that reveals what goes on behind the scenes at your establishment and is full of images of your chefs hard at work, your guests enjoying a mouth-watering breakfast or even a few snaps from a staff day out.

One of the most effective boards to create though – provided you also function as a wedding or reception venue – is for wedding inspiration. It’s one of the most popular categories on Pinterest and, if you mix in lovely pins of what you think the perfect wedding could involve with a few images of your own venue, the board is sure to capture the imagination of users and show them you’ll be able to make their dream day a reality.

Another popular category is ‘DIY & Crafts’ which, if you approach it creatively, is a great one for users in the hospitality industry to exploit. If you’re able to take advantage of the wedding theme you could repin tutorials for DIY bouquet arrangements or even create one yourself! And if not, try tutorials for making your own table arrangements, folding napkins creatively or even how to make your own face masks to leave in guests’ bathrooms.

As a little extra tactic, you could also try to pin images seasonally, posting lovely shots of your Christmas lights and decorations during the festive period, pinning recipes for the perfect autumn meal and even images of spring flowers popping up around your premises. You just need to think outside the box!

Traffic Control

Pinterest is a great source of website traffic, and if you pin according to the previous guidelines and offer equally as interesting and engaging content on your website, the probability of turning that traffic into business becomes even greater.

pinterest traffic graph

Image credit: Shareaholic

But how exactly do you get them to your site from Pinterest? Well, first you need to download the ‘Pin It’ button from the ‘About’ section of your Pinterest homepage.

Once you’ve done that, use it to pin (attractive and relevant) images from your website to your chosen board, and when users click that image on Pinterest they’ll be taken straight to the page that you pinned it from.

Blog posts are perfect, establishing you as an industry authority and creating a sense of trust among potential customers, nurturing them towards making a booking. It’s also good practice to post links, where relevant, in your image captions and profile bio to increase site awareness in a low friction way, letting users make the choice to click through when they feel like it.

Social media users also love contests, and you can really get creative when using Pinterest. Visit Santa Barbara recently ran an effective Pinterst content tying in various aspects of the city.

Sharing is Caring

For all Pinterest’s subtle differences to other social networks, it’s still a social network and requires you to interact with other users for it to really work. You should be liking, repinning and commenting on content regularly to raise awareness of your business and build up relationships with other users, proving to them that you aren’t just about the sale; you’re about the actual customer too.

community pinterest board
Another great way to get involved is by joining community boards. These are boards that multiple users can pin to and can be identified by the little symbol of three people next to where it says ‘[x number] pins’ on the board in question. They’re also a great way to develop relationships with other users as you’ll need to send a nice email or leave a comment requesting to be added, preferably telling the board’s owner that you love the content that’s on there.

Community boards are also a great way for hospitality businesses just starting out on Pinterest to quickly pick up followers, provided you don’t spam the board with irrelevant pins and get kicked off that is!

Pinterest can be an incredibly valuable tool in your marketing efforts for your hotel, restaurant, destination or venue, if you do it right. The key thing to remember is that the businesses that succeed are those who really get involved with what’s going on and use the platform as much more than just another sales pitch.

Remember: show your human side, give something back to users, don’t forget to have fun and, most importantly, bear in mind the simple rules of Pinterest etiquette – be respectful, be authentic, credit your sources and run promotions in the correct manner.

This post was contributed by Michelle Pegg, a true social media advocate who enjoys reading and blogging about the hospitality industry, textiles and linens. She is the Assurance & Compliance Manager at Hilden Linens, UK suppliers of linen to the hospitality industry. Follow her on Twitter: @PeggMichelle

Get Wine Educated at Total Wine & More’s Tech-Savvy Stores

Total Wine & More is America‘s largest independent retailer of fine wine. They currently operate over 85 superstores across 14 states and are growing rapidly. The typical store carries more than 8,000 different wines from every wine-producing region in the world.

In addition to a world-class selection of fine wines, the typical Total Wine & More also carries more than 2,500 beers, from America‘s most popular beers to hard-to-find microbrews and imports, and more than 3,000 different spirits from every price range and category.

Total Wine & More

Total Wine & More is committed to having the lowest prices on wine, spirits and beer every day. In addition to associates, their staff includes 600 wine professionals, who must demonstrate comprehensive wine knowledge before joining the team.

After coming on board, all wine team members undergo an extensive initial training program, participate in weekly team wine tastings, attend monthly wine-producer seminars, and many travel to prestigious winegrowing regions on company-sponsored trips.

Earlier this year, Total Wine debuted their “next-generation” retail experience in Southern California. The new Laguna Hills store is centered around the latest technologies to enhance its customers’ experience.

Next-generation elements include iPads which allow customers to interact with an app that recommends wine and food pairings, a fully-equipped education center to facilitate wine, beer, and spirits tastings, and flat panel video screens which provide continuous educational content on wine, beer and spirits makers and their trade.

Their main Facebook page has 35,000 fans, and they also have various pages dedicated to specific regions. Fans can learn more about wine and find other related goodies on their Pinterest page, and they also have a great wine blog that helps educates newbies on various aspects of the beverage.

Which wine is your favorite?

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Rubio’s Debuts Online Merch Store on Cyber Monday

The restaurant chain known for its fish tacos, flavorful seafood dishes, and devotion to the ocean, is now bringing its Southern California flair to clothing, drinkware, lifestyle accessories and more.

Rubio’s Restaurants is debuting its online merchandise store, in honor of Cyber Monday. Featuring a variety of Rubio’s gear for all ages, the items in the new online store represent the brand’s passion for coastal living and dedication to quality.

Created and designed by an in-house team of artists, the Rubio’s online store offers t-shirts, sweatshirts, baby onesies, kids clothes, tanks tops, aprons, reusable shopping bags, canvas totes, water bottles, coffee mugs, phone cases, stickers, key chains, license plate holders, flip flops and much more.

“At Rubio’s, we are dedicated to creating delicious, chef-crafted recipes and memorable experiences,” said Ralph Rubio, founder of Mexican food brand. “There was so much passion and attention to detail that went into the creation of the Original Fish Taco recipe and, once completed, I hoped that Rubio’s guests would see it, taste it and love it as much as I did. Now, after almost 30 years, I’m still in awe of the devotion our guests have for Rubio’s and that’s why we’re thrilled to launch an online store that delivers more of the Rubio’s culture to our guests.”

The online merchandise store is one of the brand’s many initiatives that will be rolling out as the restaurant chain celebrates its 30th anniversary.

Founded in 1983, Rubio’s opened its first store, a walk-up location, in the San Diego community of Mission Bay. Since then, Rubio’s has sold more than 150 million fish tacos and continues to expand its menu with innovative recipes inspired by the sea.

Fans can also join in the conversation and be among the first to hear about upcoming events, including Rubio’s 30th anniversary celebrations, on Facebook at  and Twitter.

Cash Registers vs iPads: Pros and Cons to the Shift to Tech

According to their Facebook bio, Urban Outfitters is the biggest small retailer in the world. Noting that’s a contradiction, the brand says they don’t intend to make sense on paper, and they don’t even have a logo.

It’s no surprise, then, that this out-of-the-box boutique retailer is fine with challenging the status quo.

According to Business Insider, at last week’s brand analyst day, Urban Outfitters revealed that they are going to phase out cash registers in favor of Apple touch-screen products.

Urban Outfitters iPadThe sales people will have iPod touches, similar to the Apple store (known for its wire-free, personal service), and the formerly on-counter registers will be replaced by iPads on swivel devices, allowing for cashiers to be on the same side of the counter as shoppers.

The company’s CIO Calvin Hollinger noted that purchasing iPads are about one-fifth the cost of cash registers, and provide a more diverse array of functionality, such as being turned toward customers, who can view content, put in personal information, create a gift registry, etc.

This seems like it could potentially present pros and cons:

Pros:

  • It’s more efficient. With employees walking around with iPod touches able to authorize transactions, people don’t have to worry about waiting in line.
  • It’s cleaner. There are no wires, no large registers on the counter, etc.
  • Similarly, iPads not-in-use can be easily removed from the counter, allowing for more space for organizing or other projects.
  • It shows a progressive stance on implementing technology. Beverage company Total Wine & More also recently made huge strides in regard to creating a tech-friendly atmosphere for guests.
Cons:
  • Eventually, with complete reliance on advance technology comes the possibility that retailers won’t need to hire as many employees. People will probably be able to ring themselves out via iPad (similar to self check-out options at grocery stores and the like). While this is a money-saver for the stores, it’ll could hurt the economy as well as the younger generations that typically rely on these kinds of jobs.
  • There could be more potential for shoplifting. With people just wandering around and being able to check out wherever, it seems much more easy for someone to claim to have checked out and rang up items (and “lost” their receipt), when they haven’t yet.
  • It’s more difficult to tailor to the cash-preferring crowd. While they’re becoming fewer and far between, kids or those with only cash them won’t have the same accessibility to these options that prefer credit card swiping.
What do you think? Do you like the idea of using iPads at stores, or do you prefer good-ol’-fashioned cash registers?

 

Total Wine & More Introduces Next Generation Retail Experience

Total Wine & More, America’s largest independent retailer of fine wine, spirits and beer, will introduce its new, “next-generation” retail experience in Southern California with the opening of its latest location in Laguna Hills, CA.

Total Wine & More Laguna Hills

Total Wine & More’s Laguna Hills location will offer more than 8,000 wines, 3,000 spirits and 2,500 beers, including hard-to-find labels and locally produced product.

The beverage superstore has created a unique retail environment centering around the latest technologies to enhance its customers’ experience, according to David Trone, co-owner of Total Wine & More.

Next-generation elements include iPads which allow customers to interact with an app that recommends wine and food pairings, a fully-equipped education center to facilitate wine, beer, and spirits tastings, and flat panel video screens which provide continuous educational content on wine, beer and spirits makers and their trade.

Coming soon, QR codes will provide customers with on-demand video content and will include full details of each product’s tasting profile, ratings and price.

Wine Recommendations“Today’s customers are seeking increased information from retailers about the products they see and like, and Total Wine’s new, ‘next-generation’ environment delivers on all of those fronts,” says Trone, who co-owns Total Wine & More with his brother Robert Trone. “While we continue to focus on delivering market-leading prices, selection, and service, we have expanded our objectives to ensure that we are also technology leaders in our industry.”

The new retail experience in the latest Total Wine & More store begins with flat panel screens at the entrance of the store that stream video content on vintners, their wineries and how the wine is made. At the state-of-the-art tasting bar, customers may utilize Total Wine’s proprietary iPad app, which provides recommendations based on pairing beverages with various meals. Coming soon, customers may utilize QR (quick response) codes to surf the web for product information and price comparisons.

“For example, customers are often seeking suggestions for a wine to pair with dinner,” explains Trone. “Using Total Wine’s app, our customers can input the food they are planning to prepare and the app will provide a recipe as well as multiple recommendations for wines which would pair nicely with the meal.”

Recipes and recommendations may be printed in the store or e-mailed for easy reference while browsing the thousands of wine selections available in each Total Wine Superstore, according to Trone. Total Wine and More Food Pairing App

In addition to the unique iPad kiosk, Total Wine & More’s new retail environment features an updated education center, equipped with wireless communications capabilities.

“One of the features that makes Total Wine unique is our educational ‘Meet the Maker’ series. These sessions give local customers a chance to interact with well-known makers of wine, beer and spirits to taste and learn about the rich history of various beverages,” says Trone. “Through our enhanced retail design, we will now be able to offer these classes with updated graphics and information, enriching the educational experience for our customers.”

In addition to enhanced tastings, Total Wine & More offers classes on various types of wines, beers and spirits. The state-of-the-art education center is also available to be booked for use by local non-profits and businesses at no charge.

Throughout the new, next-generation store, customers will also enjoy complimentary Wi-Fi, which Trone says is essential in providing price transparency.

“It might surprise people to know that we really want our customers to have the ability to compare prices,” he explains. “By providing customers with connectivity throughout our stores, we are giving them the opportunity to ensure they are getting the best prices in the market when shopping with us.”

Trone adds that “the idea behind each of these enhancements is to provide a fully integrated and enjoyable customer experience.”

Shop for Good on Black Friday

Plano, Texas-based retailer JCPenney is welcoming the holiday season with several new digital initiatives, which it hopes will bolster sales both online and at its 1,100 stores.

First, JCPenney has joined forces with The Salvation Army for an online charitable effort, the Salvation Army Angel Program. This year, they hope to reach more children, teens and seniors in need than ever before. You have the option of adopting as an individual, or, it’s now possible for groups and companies to participate, adopting up multiple angels at once.

“We wanted to make it easier for companies and groups to participate, so now groups can adopt up to 10 or more angels,” a spokesperson says. “Over the past two years, we’ve had more than 100,000 adoptions, and we’re hoping to add even more by expanding the program this way. Supporters now have the means to come together and significantly impact more families in need.”

She says the company will air TV ads from Saatchi & Saatchi, as well as online banners, to support the effort.

On Thanksgiving Day, every person who adopts a Salvation Army Angel at jcp.com generates a $50 donation, up to $400,000. And every person who checks-in via Foursquare at a JCPenney store on Black Friday triggers a $25 donation, up to $100,000.

They’re also supporting the program with a mobile feature, as well as an iPad app, allowing people to adopt an Angel anywhere in the US directly from their mobile devices. To make things even better, gifts purchased through jcp.com get free shipping from UPS.

The company is also introducing QR Santa Tags, which allow shoppers to record a personalized voice message for gift recipients. Shoppers scan the tags, which will be available in its stores beginning Black Friday, record their personal gift message, and then attach the tag to the gift. The recipient then uses the code to retrieve the gift message. The tags are free with purchase.

Will you be shopping at JCPenney on Black Friday?

Donate a Flu Shot Via Social Media

Ramon DeLeon, a popular social media figure via his sweet and human approach on behalf of Dominos, checked into Walgreens yesterday.

His checkin included a note and photo relaying that with every Foursquare or Facebook places checkin, a Walgreens flu shot voucher will be donated to someone in need through their Way to Well program.

The Walgreens Way to Well Commitment is focused on improving peoples’ everyday health through the prevention and early detection of today’s leading diseases — heart disease, cancer and diabetes.

They’re working with some of the nation’s top health organizations – - American Heart Association, American Cancer Society, Susan G. Komen for the Cure, American Diabetes Association, and Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation — to help reduce the incidences of heart disease, cancer and diabetes.

This social media initiative is an awesome way for people to help those in need with very little effort.

It also demonstrates good will from Walgreens, in addition to being a wise marketing tactic — if people are going to get a flu shot (somewhere), they may feel more inclined to go to Walgreens so that they may be able to help someone else get one as well.

Have you gotten your flu shot yet?

Fall into the … Food Truck?

With the rise in food truck popularity, it’s becoming increasingly more common for established businesses to jump on the bandwagon. Typically, though, those brands are food related (take the Carl’s Jr., Wienerschnitzel or Baskin Robbins trucks, for example).

However, The Gap, one of the largest retail clothing brands, is shaking things up with the debut of its food truck, Pico de Gap.

The Gap truck is serving Mexican cuisine at various events and Gap store locations in the brand’s hometown of San Francisco as well as other truck-heavy cities like Los Angeles, Chicago and New York.

The truck serves to stimulate buzz about Gap’s new 1969 Fall denim collection. Tacos will be available for just $1.69 for two, and feature coupons tucked into the wrappers. They’re also providing free tacos to anyone who shows a Gap receipt demonstrating purchase of the Gap 1969 jeans!

Ryan Scott of Top Chef fame is handling the culinary responsibilities of the truck and has created a enticing selection of options.

This is the first time a major retailer has taken to the streets (literally) in this manner to spread the word, so it’ll be interesting to see how the campaign goes, and if other brands take on similar initiatives.

Would you dine at a truck like this for retail perks?

 

A Successful Social Media Campaign

Earlier in the year, PopChips ran an extremely successful social media campaign seeking out a “VP of Pop Culture.” With one of the most social-media savvy celebrities, Ashton Kutcher, on board, PopChips was able to not only award a winner, but create huge buzz, visibility and excitement about their brand.

popchips ashton kutcherContest overview:

  • Must “like” Facebook page to enter
  • Ask fans to submit 90 second video showing why they’re the best candidate for “VP of Pop Culture”
  • Encourage them to have their friends vote for their video (via also liking the page)
  • Votes narrow down the top three, then Ashton Kutcher chooses the winner
  • Specific “terms and conditions” page created
  • Create a YouTube page specifically for the brand/this promotion

Strategy:

  • Involve a celebrity – Ashton Kutcher – who will select the winner
  • “Pop culture” is something any/everyone can relate to, so it’s universally applicable to a wide audience
  • “Pop” (culture) is also a play on the name of their product
  • Winner receives an actual job that pays $50,000
  • Endorsement on TV shows (Jimmy Kimmel)
  • Having videos on YouTube also allows for additional online exposure
  • Create silly/fun videos as well

Numbers:popchips

  • YouTube:
    • Channel views:  127,165
    • Total upload views:  783,803
    • Subscribers: 1,193
  • Facebook:
    • Fans:  112,708
    • Contest entrants: 236

 

5 Reasons Malls Should Embrace QR Codes

QR CodesQR Codes are still relatively unfamiliar to some, but more and more are starting to embrace the marketing opportunities they bring.

Mobile-marketing company Notixtech describes QR codes:
If you’re not familiar with QR codes, think of them as a barcode. Smartphone owners, with the right app, and awareness of what to do, are able to scan this barcode and be taken to more information on their smartphone … They allow the smartphone owner to engage with a [business] on a new level.”

A pretty common and growing trend is people adding QR codes to their business cards, allowing those that scan access to much information than can be contained on a business card itself.

More and more businesses, too, are adding QR codes to marketing materials.

For example, among the various advertisements that circle through the pillars throughout the mall, the Burbank Town Center features a QR code which shoppers can scan to find out the best sales happening right now.

Burbank Mall

5 reasons this is a perfect tactic for shopping malls:

  1. it makes shoppers feel as though they’re privy to “inside” information — they’re accessing something not everyone knows how to access.
  2. it’s very current — providing only the most up-to-date sales (it’s not outdated, which a paper advertisement would eventually become).
  3. it’s an easy opportunity to for a venue which represents many to accumulate all their stores’ sales in one place.
  4. it’s seamless to update — all they have to do is update the website with the specials; much more simple than creating new print ads, etc.
  5. shoppers can take it with them — whereas a list of “the best sales in the mall right now” on a regular mall fixture would be stagnant, but allowing guests to access the information on their phones, they can go through it as they continue to talk, can re-visit it, etc.

Do you think more and more malls and similar venues will begin to embrace QR codes?