By Katie Klein Special to Published Jan 24, 2012 at 5:35 PM

For more than a few years now, I've been secretly and not-so secretly monitoring how brands, restaurants and companies have been using their social identities as customer relationship tools. It never ceases to amaze me the lack of effort that is put into a very easy avenue for communicating with customers.

Correct me if I am wrong, but a business cannot survive – especially in this economy – without the support and patronage of their customers, right? To be blunt, if people don't spend money in your business, you don't make money. If you don't make money, you as a business owner can't continue to operate. If you can't operate, you can't pay your bills. Ergo, you need customers to support your bottom line. Unless a business has a secret cash cow stashed somewhere, I'm pretty sure this is accurate, albeit very simplistically, stated.

So when a customer praises or criticizes your business, you sure as hell better listen.

Several recent occurrences with local businesses (a restaurant and two separate fitness facilities) have left me wondering if egos are more important than customer experiences. So here's a "gentle" reminder to business owners/operators who think setting up a Facebook page or Twitter account is good enough: think again.

My advice:

  • Monitor What's Being Said About You. This should be a no-brainer by now, but if you do not have a mechanism or two in place to monitor your business or brand online, add that to the top of your 'to-do' list.
  • Ignoring is Not an Option. Be thankful, grateful and appreciative of your customers who post great comments; after all, you've earned it! Be genuine and apologetic when a customer has a negative experience.
  • Make it Right. Negative experiences happen, your servers and customer service employees have off days. What's not acceptable is to turn a blind eye to unhappy customers who have a less-than-enjoyable experience at your business. Take the time to make it right, otherwise it will come back to haunt you when you least expect it.
  • Continuous Improvement. Use customer feedback to improve your business. No person or business is perfect, and customers expect to see growing pains, or improvements to the operation. It's when you refuse to improve or acknowledge flaws that you'll see traffic diminish through your main entrance. If you publicly say you're going to make a change, you better stick to it.

I've witnessed clients and businesses successfully navigate the choppy waters of experience sharing via social networks. It's not as scary as you might think; it can be done, you just need to make it a priority.

Katie Klein Special to

Some may call her a digital wizardess. Others may call her a bolt of snark ready to strike. But we like to call her Katie. All ninjas must have a day job, and hers is with advertising agency Boelter + Lincoln in the Third Ward. As "BootyP," her wit, criticism and comedic banter have lit up the Twitter world in Milwaukee - and now she's attacking the blogosphere. Her faithful followers know her no-BS approach to most any topic.

Her snarky-yet professional personality makes her a must-read, must-know person in this city. You can find her 14,500 feet in the air, or walking down the street in a pair of stilettos with a yoga mat strapped to her back.

Want to bribe Katie? Best to deliver massive quantities of Diet Coke, candy (gummy candy more specifically), tea and music her way.