Social media is a universe of trends — and you DON’T want your company to trend negatively. When customers begin to reach out on social media with complaints, it could mean major headaches in the future if you don’t have the processes in place to take care of problems expediently. Here are a few tips for interacting with customers who might not have the nicest things to say about your brand.
First: Treat every negative comment like it’s a review!
- You may not be on Yelp or G2 Crowd, but every negative message about your brand is like a tiny review of your company - one which could potentially stay up forever. And as Snapchat recently found out, even one negative Tweet can have a devastating impact on your brand.
- According to MindSight, 42% of customers learn about products and services through Twitter alone, meaning a few majorly negative Tweets could provide the wrong first impression for many potential customers.
- Of course you want to turn negative comments into positive experiences, but don’t forget to interact with customer comments that start out positive. It’s a great way to organically show off your company’s successes!
Know when to take it private.
- Some interactions are perfect as examples of your fantastic customer service! Some definitely are not. If it seems like you may not be able to satisfy the customer without some compromises, or the customer is starting out angry, take the conversation private. If the situation turns out well, they have the choice to share it themselves.
Never argue with a customer, especially in public.
- Remember, it’s probably not your job to argue - and it can make your whole brand look unreasonable in the face of a customer service problem.
- If a situation goes beyond your pay grade, find a superior (or customer service specialist) who can make sure everything is being done to help deal with the problem at hand. Either way, you should already be keeping things private if at all possible.
- If the customer begins vaguely and/or rudely, it may be best to avoid responding at all. If they mention a specific problem, however, that’s the time to step in and try to make the situation right.
Under promise and over-deliver: An oldie but a goodie!
- You’ve been there: halfway into reading a customer’s message, you’re sure you can solve it in the ‘blink of an eye’. But what if there’s a problem that prevents you from doing so? You don’t want to promise a customer the world only to have to take it back.
- Instead, follow up and promise progress towards a solution - then deliver that perfect solution quickly (as soon as you confirm it’s the right way to help the customer). Customers interacting via social media typically expect responses within an hour, so nailing down a solution in a few minutes can earn you some extra goodwill.
Be one step ahead of the customer: Get as much info as quickly as possible.
- You have the resources of your entire company at your fingertips - don’t waste them! Gain as much knowledge of the customer’s situation before you begin help them, rather than just waiting for them to tell you.
- Try to create a plan to answer the customer’s question while they ask it, especially if the problem sounds familiar. If you find a quick answer or solution, you’ll be a superhero - and if the problem is complex, you’ll be on top of it with impressive efficiency.
One complaint is an isolated issue. Two complaints is a pattern. Three complaints is a problem.
- If multiple customers are having the same problem, make a real effort to find and correct the source as quickly as possible. By the time more complaints roll in, you can (honestly) reassure panicked customers that the issue is already being taken care of.
- If you can fix a snowballing problem before it becomes too large, you’ll be doing your customers, your company AND yourself a favor.
Follow up with customers who have changed their tune.
- If an angry-at-first customer ends interactions with genuine thanks, don’t ignore them! Showing them (and any onlookers) that you’re happy to help, even if the interaction started a little bit difficult, can mean they’ll afford you the benefit of the doubt if future problems pop up.
- That being said, learn when to leave well enough alone, too. If you’ve just gotten through with a particularly tough customer, you may want to avoid ‘poking the bear.’
Make sure your social media presence is an expert on your company!
- This comes down to a certain level of brand preference. Is your social media brand a personality unto itself, or is it staffed by personalities? Is it speaking as an authority, or are multiple authorities behind it? Many companies that use the latter tactic have separate employees tagging Tweets with their initials.
- Whichever you decide, make sure that you can answer basic questions of prospective customers effortlessly. If you don’t know the answer, let the questioner know you’ll find out. Your brand should be an expert on itself!
If you can’t give a customer what they want, give them two alternatives.
- There may be no way to 100% satisfy every customer - even reasonable requests sometimes just aren’t possible. In that case, a “take it or leave it” solution probably won’t make the customer (or those watching) more comfortable with your company.
- Instead, sincerely apologize and give at least a few reasonable alternatives. This lets your customer know you do care and want to help, even if you can’t do it in the exact way they’d prefer.
Embrace the goofballs: If you release something silly that people call you out on, don’t shy away from it.
- Long ago in the social media offices of Groupon, a simple comment thread on a banana-armoring kitchen tool exploded into 200 million media impressions - all because they chose to have fun with the obvious joke instead of ignoring it.
- If customers are laughing at your brand or something your brand has distributed, find a way to join - be IN on the joke instead of BEING the joke - and you can turn an unintentional stumble into marketing gold.
- Make sure you’re not mocking customers in the process (although don’t resist the occasional good-natured jibe to those who are playing along).
- Last, but certainly not least, be sure you’re an expert on all things banana. (You never know when this could come in handy.)
Chuck Cotterman is the Social Media Manager at G2 Crowd (and previously the personality behind Groupon’s Banana tool fiasco highlighted in this article). G2 Crowd is the leading B2B software and services review platform with over 380,000 verified reviews from real software users.
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