In my ongoing review of Astria Fireplaces made by Innovative Hearth Products this week, I wanted to post an update.
Here is the note I sent yesterday to staff at Astria Fireplaces:
“The bank has just informed us they will not move our construction loan to a regular loan until the house is 100% complete. This is now a very big issue for us. My husband and I have still not heard anything from the district manager. We must move forward with something. We are living in a temporary apartment and want to be moved in to our new home! I am going to the Fireplace store today (Glover – who bought these two items from Astria) to start looking for alternatives, all of which now really puts us in a bind to find an alternative and get shipping at the last minute.”
“Needless to say, I am very unhappy. Communication is key to resolving problems and all it would have taken would be to say “yes these are really and truly going into production and you will have them on xx date” or “no, we are going to have a delay again and we expect them really to be out of production in xx date in 2016″. How hard can that be to be truthful?”
“To not be able to close on our new custom home over two fireplaces that have been on order since 8/26/15 is just unthinkable. I know that our 2 fireplace order may be small based on your overall business – but clearly this is a case in point of vey poor customer service that should be reviewed by management. How can dealers sell your products and how can consumers buy them when they are hostages to a lack of information and truthfulness?”
“I would very much appreciate your regional sales manager’s or US sales manager’s email so that I can plead my case for information.”
Shortly after sending that note I finally got a phone call from the Astria Fireplace District Manager and it was a good thing as it appears that Astria had pulled the product we have ordered to retool it. But they had not communicated this to customers or dealers. We are getting one of the first fireplaces put into production after product changes to improve the natural beauty of the flames, installation improvements, and improved serviceability.
The lesson learned is that communication is key! Fires can be put out quickly and easily with just a little personal touch whether it is a phone call, email, or quick Facebook response.
Remember when it’s online, the world is watching the exchange – make it work for you!
Many businesses do not see the need to be on Twitter or Facebook, but these are the very first places that their customers will look to get help if they cannot get it from the business’ website.
More frequently consumers will start with Facebook, but many businesses have turned off the ability for a consumer to post to their Facebook page making it a one way conversation. In this case you may see private messages and even posts as comments to one of the page’s posts as customers can get desperate looking for help to solve a problem.
For Facebook pages that are set up like this, it is typical that no one is even monitoring comments or interactions. So, potentially other readers will read the public comments posted by a customer with a problem; potentially damaging sales and reputations.
For customers from their 20’s to mid thirties they will typically turn to Twitter as well as Facebook; hashtagging your reputation into the gutter if they are really mad over a situation. Bing and Google will pick up these hashtags and they may even appear in the search results.
Add to that if someone is very active on social media and has a high Klout score their comments may become even more damaging as their comments will carry more weight online and more users may retweet the tweet; exposing you to even bigger damage.
Businesses pay big money for reputation management after online damage has been done, but it seems to me that with social media moderation and review of Facebook and Twitter a firestorm can quickly and easily be put out before the problems becomes so big that the customer feels the need to post a negative review or even a ScamReport (if they lost money).
Better yet for businesses is to get a footprint on social media and have a weekly review of comments to put out a potential fire quickly and be proactive in reaching out to customers in need.
Here’s the situation… my husband and I ordered two Astria Envy Fireplaces (InnovativeInnovative Hearth Products) from our builder back in August. That’s over 13 weeks ago, we have been given a number of shipping dates. Here’s what we have been told:
Today: “Astria has informed him that the fireplaces will not go into production until Thanksgiving week.”
On October 26th: “The 2 fireplaces requested by the customer were ordered on 8/25 with a ship date of 6 weeks per the manufacturer. On 9/21 we requested an update on the fireplaces and were told a production date of 9/28 and then 2 mores to receive them.”
“On 10/12 we were told the units were to ship in 1 week. When we had not received the units on 10/19 we called to check an update. At that time we were told the production date was pushed until 11/1 and they would be shipped after production. The units are still on order and we are still anticipating installing those units as they are the ones requested by the customer.”
To understand the situation more fully my response in email to the marketing department (as that was the only address on their website) was as follows, “Our home closing is now being held up with these two fireplaces that my husband absolutely loves. My concern is that we are now being told these two fireplaces will go into production the week of Thanksgiving. If this is not true, please tell us now so we can find something else so we can close and get into our home before Christmas, we have already now missed Thanksgiving.
“We really do not want to wait again to simply be told to wait again without a realistic production and shipping date that we can really trust.”
“Could you please let me know the reality of actually getting this product? My concern is that the factory is really wanting to discontinue them but does not want to say to dealers and is stringing them and therefore us along. We have now waited 13 weeks still do not have a shipping date. This is taking longer than to build our house!”
Of importance is that the vendor’s website does not have a customer service phone number or email address. So what did I do? Most likely the same thing that your customers would do, I turned to social media. I posted a nice private Facebook note to the vendor, I posted publically and nicely on their Facebook wall, I searched on Twitter to find them and then hashtagged all over the place to try to get their attention. Customers who get frustrated would most likely not be as nice as I have been with my communication.
I am hopeful that the factory and customer service department, that I know that they must have, will respond back to me.
Now, here’s the takeaway… are you personally making it hard on your own customers to find you, get an answer, or ask a question? Have you removed phone numbers and emails from your website hoping to not be bothered. Are you not engaged in social media? Most customers will look to Facebook first and then Twitter if they are really connected. If they don’t get satisfaction, they will go to Google+ and Yelp to write a review.
Well, I have to say from my perspective, the longer this vendor waits to respond the worse the reviews are that I will post online about their product and deliverability. Are you frustrating your own customers with the same inability to contact you to resolve a problem?
Check back on Wednesday for more about social media being the new customer service portal. Friday this week may just end up being the day for my candid review of the Astria Envy Fireplace by Innovative Hearth Products.
I’ve had two customers in the last two weeks have near heart attacks over negative reviews that they have found online about their business. In both cases the business owners wrote angry responses and then asked me for help.
Here are five tips on how to write a good response to a bad review:
1. Never write your response when you are angry or shocked. You will never be able to be diplomatic. Instead, take time to cool down. Bad reviews happen to nearly every business at some point in time. There are “trolls” out there who take delight in tearing apart what you do. Not all reviews will demand a response. But each situation should be looked at carefully.
2. Check with people you trust to see if they feel that the review has any merit and if it will need a response. I have found that sometimes hidden in a bad review is a real truth that you can embrace and use to actually improve your business, services, and level of customer service. Be open to seeing if the review may have some validity and take action to correct what you see is wrong. If you feel you do need to write a response, think carefully, take your time writing, and before you post it, run it by people you trust to make sure the tone is not aggressive.
3. Take a deep breath. One bad review will not break your business, but it may be a wakeup call that you need to get proactive in working hard to get positive reviews for your business. Make getting reviews simply a part of good customer service and follow-up.
4. If you do write a review I recommend starting it off by thanking the person who brought the problem or issue to your attention. Never get personal or in-you-face with the reviewer. Do not accuse them or devalue their point of view about your business or service. Never call them a liar or difficult.
5. In you response, ask the person who had poorly reviewed you if you can fix the problem. Is a credit merited, free service to be offered, an apology to be made? Be diplomatic and do not agree that you have done wrong (unless you have) but accept the review as constructive criticism and spin your response as valuing their comments.
Online reviews are important and I do not want this blog post to be construed as saying do nothing when you get a bad review. But think carefully about the issue, write a heartfelt thoughtful response, and learn from the situation while moving forward.
Here’s a comment I found on Yelp about one of the businesses I cross paths with that when I saw it I cringed for them:
“…Terrible. My 8 year old was like, “OMG MOM what happened?” Called her to adjust, try to fix, whatever, she was rude and condescending beyond words… AND WAY over priced. She had the *** to tell me how much it would cost to fix them! She said it was a touch up… Losing her eyesight and hand is NOT steady, her mind is gone too! NUTS! ”
Consumers love Yelp and business owners hate Yelp, but as a business owner, you’d better learn how to work the Yelp system to your advantage. Reviews about your business happen on Yelp whether you have an account or not. Deciding not to claim your page there does not mean that your poor reviews will not show up, rather you simply have no way to rebut them . This is the same for Google Local. Google will build a page for your business where a review about you will be housed whether you claim the page or not.
As this business I mentioned with the poor review, has tons of really great reviews, it is a shame that this one review on Yelp is getting serious exposure on Google that is sure to damage their sales.
Better by far is to embrace the system, claim these page (Yelp and Google Local) and drive happy customers there by pointing emails to these pages and asking customers to review you online. One terrible review will not hurt you when you have 10, 20, or 50 fabulous reviews. There will always be “trolls” out there and consumers know it, but when you have only one review and it is a really poor one and Google is choosing to show it by your website listing, it can damage your business terribly.
Need more help with your image online? Ask us about our Brand Booster program or savvy solutions to help build your online and website reviews.