If you don’t have anything nice to say, post a review instead.

Marketing to women can be a little tricky when it comes to getting feedback on your product or service. My last post included video interviews with women about bad haircuts and brand loyalty. The quick message for those who are marketing to women:  just because a female customer doesn’t complain, doesn’t mean she’s happy with you. Chances are that if she’s not satisfied, you’ll be the last to know. Her friends and any YELP readers will be the first to hear about it.

So, what’s a brand to do?

That was certainly an issue for the COO of a successful flooring company I spoke with recently. It is company policy for all of her installers to ask the customer (and the customer is usually a woman) if they are happy with how the floor looks and the way the job was completed. The woman usually says yes and even signs a statement saying she’s satisfied.  So far, so good. The problem raises its ugly head only days later when the manager gets an unhappy call from the woman’s husband. Turns out women are typically so averse to confrontation that they wait until their husband is available to voice concerns. In the meantime, they’ll politely smile and say thank you.

Deal with it by getting smart.

1) Take a deep breath and remember that unhappy customers can become your biggest fans and most vocal evangelists if you respond quickly and work earnestly to fix the problem. Smart brands will tell you that responding appropriately can earn you more good press and word-of-mouth than traditional advertising ever could. This is more true than ever in an economy that makes us think hard about forking over our hard-earned money.

Turn an unsatisfied customer into a very happy one and guess what happens. She’s got a great story that will be told again and again and again. And guess who’s the hero? You are. The word of mouth that results is the stuff branding director’s dreams are made of.

2) Find another way to solicit honest feedback. Face -to-face is uncomfortable for most people and is particularly tough for women who are literally hard-wired as gatherers to keep the village working together. So make it easy for people to give their reviews anonymously (if they choose) and on their own schedule.  Allow for ratings and reviews on your site.  For large companies, a service like BazaarVoice is the gold standard for monitoring customer reviews online. If your pockets aren’t deep enough to hire those guys, get creative. Send an email after the purchase asking for their input. Make sure to keep it SHORT. Link to an online survey that asks 5 questions or fewer. Let it be an OPTION for the customer to give their name or contact info. Allow a field for them to write a more complete comment if they choose.

3) Ask for opinions in YOUR voice. Don’t just send a standardized “your feedback is valuable to us” missive with an equally canned survey. Let your brand personality and EARNEST desire to do a better job ooze from every detail. Consider that even your email asking for their feedback is a form of marketing on your part. Work it.

4) Act on what you learn.

4) Act on what you learn.

4) Act on what you learn. Yes, the repeat was intentional.

This is the step that separates the success stories from the Chapter 11s. Do not hide from the bad reviews. Bad reviews are a roadmap for getting better. As Chris Brogan pointed out in his presentation at GR2L last week, the tools for listening to consumers are there. We’re just not acting on them. Chris reminds us to use OODA: Observe, Orient, Direct, Act.  It’s the Directing and Acting where most companies drop the ball.

The beautiful thing about having women as your customers is that they will tell you exactly what you need to do to succeed. You just have to ask them the right way and listen with both ears and your heart.

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