I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen it.

A business owner wants to spread the word about his or her great product or service.  They’ve worked hard to build their business and want to take it to the next level by embracing some of this new fangled stuff online.  But start talking social media or open forums and they suddenly get squeamish.  Why?  They’re afraid of the big, bad consumer.

Don’t look now, but they’re talking about YOU right now.

They start sweating when you talk about Yelp and their palms get clammy when they think of a Facebook Page wall open to comments from so-called fans.  What about negative comments?  Ex-boyfriends with a grudge?  Crazy people with random posts about their fetishes?  The irreverent friend who thinks its funny to embarrass you or curses every other word?  Uber negative people?  Or GASP!  The crooked, sabotaging competitor?  *scary music climaxes*

Are we all just afraid of confrontation?  Have we become super sensitive?  Is it the viral nature of the internet?  What is it about open communication and the process of relationship development that has businesses paralyzed with fear?

People are going to talk anyway.

If you listen real closely, someone is slamming your business right now because your receptionist, who just got off the phone from home with bad news, was abrupt or aloof with their issue.  They were so upset, they called their mom in a different state, who told her husband, who will tell one of his buddies at work.  Mom will also tell the ladies at the gym.  And the client will tell her coworkers the next day after posting it on her Facebook status.

Don’t you wish you had an opportunity to address that customer’s complaint before she told everyone?

That’s what having an open Facebook page is all about.  You have the ability to address customers before they feel frustrated to the point of telling the world.  Think about it.  How would you like a relationship with someone that no matter how they treated you they only wanted you to say positive things about them to everyone?  And if you tried to say something that might be negative (even if true) they blocked, deleted or was rude to you?

Any strong and lasting relationship includes the good and the bad.  It’s conversational, understanding and yes, sometimes challenging.  Running from it or avoiding it is cowardly.  If someone was standing in your store and making a scene, wouldn’t you address it in a courteous manner so that other customers can notice your calm response?  The same goes for online.  Be courteous.  Translate your great offline customer service online.

Everyone wont like your business.  That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t allow conversation to happen.  So come out from under the bed and join the online community, openly and freely.  Because hiding from the big, bad customer online won’t protect your business from it.