It's Time You Paid Attention To Your Worst Customers.

Like the good marketer you are, you’ve started to pore over all of that “Big Data” you have on your customers. Not surprisingly, 20% of your customers generate 80% of your revenue. Around 80% of your customer issues are coming from 20% of your customers. In social media, 80% of mentions are positive.

The 80/20 Rule is in effect everywhere.

So, you set a strategy. Your first inclination is to pay great attention to your great customers—to keep them, nourish them, and encourage them to keep being great.

Great.

The second thing you may look at are your “worst” customers—you know, the ones who don’t buy very much and tend to be “the complainers” who suck up a lot of Customer Service time, and your Social Media staff’s daily commitment.

On the surface, they look like they’re costing you a lot of money in manpower, and not generating a lot of revenue. So, you may want to ignore them by cutting down the amount of time and attention your service reps and community managers spend dealing with their whining and complaining.

I’ve heard this argument many times. “Ignore your worst customers! Why are you spending 80% of your customer service time on your worst 20%?”

Well, I say that would be a big mistake.

With today’s giant customer megaphone called the Internet, those complainers can create a negative networked effect that can be extremely harmful. Those 20% of bad mentions on the Internet could easily turn into 80% of what people are talking about you on the web, and translate into a 80% negative perception rate—making it difficult for even your best customers to ignore. And ultimately costing you more money than the cost of the manpower to deal with them.

Let’s face it, people who are ticked off at your brand turn to the Internet to vent, and they have a giant audience to hear them. They’re like a festering wound, the more you ignore it, the worse it gets. A friend of mine is a HUGE fan of Zappos. He bought into their brand of awesome customer service, which created a halo effect onto their products and pricing. He loved everything about them. Then, the other day his shoe order was stolen. UPS said they delivered it, but there was no sign of the package. As his neighbors shrugged their shoulders when asked if they had signed for it, he began to get angry. And worse yet, Zappos customer service was “slow” to respond. He began to boil over. So, my 20-something friend took to Facebook, and started venting. By the time Zappos had gotten back to him, the damage had been done. Right? Well, not so fast. Zappos expedited another package to him to be delivered the next day, and all is better. The hateful comments were retracted, and all is right with the positive perceptions of the Zappos brand.

You see, you’re far better off over-extending your generosity—through polite behavior and even gives of service and product, to at least defuse the negative language those complainers are spewing. Set a strategy—with boundaries that allows you to efficiently handle even the most pissed off customer. Treat them with respect, and they will deliver in kind (double entendre intended).

I say pay as much attention to the 20% of your best customers, as you do the 20% who do all of the complaining.

This may sound strange, but you may need to pay as much attention to your best customers, as you do your worst.

Be kind to the 20%. They’ll return the favor.

This article originally appeared on the Digital Marketing 2.0 blog

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