At some point, every business has to address a complaint from a customer. In today’s world, you’ll probably be addressing the problem on social media, where a large audience stands by, watching and waiting for your next move (and chiming in!). In fact, a JD Power study showed that 67% of consumers have gone to social media for customer service. So what do you do when you have an unhappy customer who has taken to social media to air their grievances?
First of all, if your customer comes at you via social media, that can actually be a good thing. It gives you the chance to interact with them directly and hopefully ease the situation, as well as demonstrate for other current and potential customers the kind of experience they can expect to have with your brand.
Below are some social media customer service best practices to help you stay cool when faced with an unhappy customer online.
Plan ahead. One of the best things you can do is prepare for this kind of situation before it even occurs. Work with your team to develop a social media customer service strategy for how your company engages on social media, including interacting with disgruntled people. This strategy needs to reflect your company’s core values and voice and be consistent across all modes of communication. Consider different scenarios and how they will be handled. Establish what kinds of liberties your team has the power to take to fix problems. Online retailer, Zappos, is famous for the lengths their employees will go to help their customers.
It’s important to practice overcoming objections. While reading from a script is not necessarily the right approach, these are not situations where you should be winging it. Just like with so many things in life, if you have a plan in place, you will respond better.
Pay attention and respond quickly. Social media interactions can happen very quickly. You need to be monitoring your accounts and responding to your customers in a timely manner. This 2015 study revealed that in the retail industry, the average Twitter response time was 1 day, 7 hours and 12 minutes. That’s ridiculous, especially considering 64% of customers expect a response on Twitter within an hour. If your company is on Twitter, consider establishing a separate handle just for customer support.
Real life scenario: A software service that our business uses throughout every day had a major service interruption a few months ago. We went to their Facebook page (along with many other people) to inquire about the status of the outage and…crickets. They finally spoke up after several hours, but people were furious by then. The company said that its process was to respond to emails to its support system before addressing social media. This seemed like a poor strategy to me. Responding to support emails is critical, of course, but it should be happening in tandem with providing status updates to your customers across social media accounts.
Take the high road. You can’t control what customers say, but you can control how your company responds. Do not ignore negative feedback or get defensive. Keep your tone courteous and professional, and show a genuine desire to remedy the situation. No matter how disparaging, do not delete posts or comments you don’t like, unless they contain profanity or other particularly ugly language. All that does is fuel the fire and make people more hostile. If the situation is not diffusing, take it offline and attempt to connect with the customer privately to resolve the problem. Monitor your online reviews - respond to both positive reviews with thanks and acknowledge negative reviews and offer a private communication opportunity to try and make it right. If I notice that a business is only responding to good reviews and appears to be ignoring the bad reviews, I think twice about whether I want to give them my business.
Don’t be a doormat. All this being said, if and when appropriate, do stand up for your business and use the opportunity to communicate your organization’s core values and ethics. Every situation is a marketing opportunity if you look at it the right way. Here are some more examples of effective responses to negative online reviews.
Our digital world clearly illustrates that people will say things online that they would never say to someone’s face. When a customer is upset, they deserve the same kind of courtesy you would show anyone in your life: to be listened to and acknowledged, even if they have not shown you similar courtesy. Many times, just feeling heard goes a long way in helping ease a customer’s unhappiness. Does your business have a social media customer service strategy in place? What kinds of tactics have worked well for you? Share your successes in the comments!