A week or so ago, I shared how to effectively complain through social media. I feel as solid as that is for consumers to resolve service issues through social media, it’s only right for me to share how a brand or business can effectively resolve such complaints in a helpful and useful way for customers. I’ll reveal five tactics I use to resolve complaints for customers through social media.
Full disclosure: I am responsible for addressing consumer feedback for Infusionsoft. Sometimes we earn a few complaints from users and I represent the company to help make things right. My opinions expressed in this post do not represent the views of the company. (But they could; you never know. ;]) Don’t take everything I say at face value.
When a customer complains through social media it hurts. We know it hurts because damaging blog posts gets indexed by the Big G and haters will attract to it and pile on more hurtful statements. I use “haters” in a loose sense here; these are simply people who feel disenfranchised from a brand and feel they need to get the word out about their bad experience.
To mitigate a damaging, negative social media complaint, I suggest five bulletproof ways to address nearly all complaints from customers. Not all will work all the time, but these are helpful ideas to help salvage a customer relationship once it’s been tarnished.The objective: turn a bad situation around into good.
To set the precedent on this advice, I recommend reading my advice for consumers on how to complain through social media. It’s the Yin for this Yang.
1. Provide Excellent Customer Service All The Time
This is the most powerful way to avert negative experiences (and create positive ones) from customers. I know it’s ambiguous and “dreamy” to most, but it’s a goal that the entire company including the customer support organization should be striving for. While JD Power sets the baseline for “good customer service” at 85%, you should be shooting for 100%. We’re not in an 85% world anymore.
Excellent customer service doesn’t mean bending over forwards and taking it from unruly customers. It means being available, responsive and empathetic to their concerns. It also means doing the right thing for the right customer at the right time.
You can’t improve anything that doesn’t get measured. Poll and survey all customer interactions and gain intelligence from their view into their experience. Call back any disgruntled customers who cite a horrific experience and get further details and insight into what led up to it and address it.
Organizations that legitimately do their best to provide excellent customer service, also know the reality that not everyone is thrilled with the result of every interaction. Keep reading …
2. Respond Quickly: Publicly Acknowledge, Take Responsibility, Be Helpful
Assuming a customer just shared a negative experience over social media – be it Twitter, Facebook, a Blog post, a Video or any type of content that harms your company – responding quickly is key to quelling the flames from erupting.
Don’t take it personally; however, make the response personal. Ironic, huh? Simply offer a response accepting responsibility for the experience and be helpful and courteous even if they haven’t. Likewise, don’t let people off the hook for blatantly lying about their experience. Having a little humility and authenticity will go a long way.
A good response to use on Twitter – obviously modify it to fit the situation and the empathy for what they say:
“Sorry to hear about your experience, FIRSTNAME. We’ll review this and make it right.”
Blogs and videos are something that you should tread cautiously. Your responses while are permanent often are a proving ground for others to scrutinize more than short-form responses on Twitter and Facebook. Do your diligence to proofread and minimize typos where possible when commenting back on a blog.
If someone merely shares their frustration about using your product or service, have thick skin and offer them help. This will often go a longer way than debating semantics as to the quality or ease of use. Likewise, have compassion that not everyone will enjoy every aspect of your product or service. Take it in stride and offer help where help is accepted.
3. Take it Offline: Research Your Customer, Their History and Get the Facts
Once someone shares their beef with your company, the next step is to be an investigator. Gather the facts – including the good, bad and ugly. This is often a time-consuming process, but it’s worth it when you have the facts in hand to make decisions later.
Gain some data on your customer. (I will be flamed for this, sorry.) Research their blog, audience size, type of engagements they have and how they have interacted with other companies/brands. This will help give you a little insight as to how likely the situation will be resolved. This helps you also determine if it’s mindless banter, or a legitimate, valid concern someone is raising.
If you feel you got enough data to formulate your objective assessment and feel confident in addressing the situation. Call them. You’d be surprised at how empowering and relieving the feeling is when people tweet and get a call minutes later. This will often help them take your customer service approach a little more seriously and will be more candid. Don’t do this all the time – but try it. There will be a different response than handling disputes only through the web.
4. Respond in a Calculated, Calm Manner; Leverage Brand Advocates
Responding in a calculated, but not manipulative manner is always a better choice. Give your response a break before posting it. Responding impulsively is more likely to hurt than help. When I say calculated, I mean don’t respond to every complaint; rather, pick off a couple of the strongest complaints and address those. In turn, hopefully they will engage and you can address the other smaller issues privately.
You know a brand advocate when you see them defending a brand they have no relation to, except as customer. These advocates will defend your brand if someone questions your brand’s integrity. Often, these brand advocates are untamed and sometimes let their emotions get in the way of their civility. This is fine in most cases– but send them a thank you for offering to help and give them guidance on responses and how the company cares. Brand advocates will listen if they know you know they mean well. But of course, it is nice when brand loyalists cut through the crap and lay the facts out to someone.
5. Have a Backbone; Don’t Always Give In.
Just as important as providing instant service, is the need for customers and your audience to respect you. If a company made exceptions to every policy, the policies would be meaningless and these companies would go broke. (Some could argue that failure is a natural phase of development. Different topic.)
Be fair, reasonable and make diplomatic accommodations for your customers. If you feel you’ve offered more than enough, stand by your word/offer and don’t give in. Much like Pavlov’s dogs, people will see what makes you give and will attempt to play you. Let the facts and the situations speak for itself. Emotions don’t usually fix anything. Be sound and confident in your dispute resolution. Aim for a first-time-fix all the time. If you don’t get it, don’t worry. Do you best at all times so there is no counter-offer to redress someone’s concerns. If you genuinely do your best, there is no counter-offer.
Wow, that was quite a bit. As you can tell, I love solving problems and love helping people. I hope my last point didn’t come off too brash; but if it did, the previous four always come into the play first.
Social media doesn’t actually cause customer service issues. It can mediate; social media serves as a great feedback and communications channel to customer interactions. This post helps make the case for many growing companies – especially consumer-focused ones to dedicate resources to monitoring, researching and resolving customer service issues found through social media.
The next step for social media professionals who resolve customer service disputes is to be a stakeholder in customer communications, customer service, sales and marketing in a company. This missing puzzle piece will help people consider the impact of their actions a little more seriously.
What do you think? Are these good ideas for companies to do to address service issues through social media?