As consumers, we all have high expectations of the products and services we use and pay for, and rightly so. Previously, when those standards weren’t met, we would likely phone a helpline or write a letter of complaint. But those days are gone. Today we head straight for social media.
A quick search of social media will reveal that when consumers’ expectations are not met, public forums like Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, are littered with customer negative feedback. There, dissatisfied customers are quick to air their grievances about a brand’s faulty products or deficient service. Many of us have done it ourselves; making a complaint in public is quite likely to get you a quick response and a better possibility of a speedier resolution.
The problem for brands, however, is that prospective customers and competitors can see these social media comments, therefore damaging trust and brand perception. But that doesn’t have to be the case. Smart brands recognise and embrace the opportunity to deal with customer issues by engaging with them – turning haters into lovers.
Brands’ reputations are built on how well they can handle customer social media complaints online. So what are the key steps that brands should take to ensure that they manage complaints in the best way possible?
1. Listen and understand
When a customer posts a social media complaint, it’s important to make sure they know that their issue has been heard and understood; they must know that their complaint is being taken seriously. This will help to rebuild trust and it shows that you are on their side.
2. Revert quickly
People expect a response quickly and if possible, reply within minutes of their comment being posted. You can only do this if you have a staff member, or a digital media agency, dedicated to monitoring your social media channels. According to a study from Convince & Convert, 40% of respondents expect a response time within hours of leaving a complaint. If you don’t have a solution straight away, or if it needs more time to find one, it’s a good idea to respond saying that you have received the complaint and are looking into it. It’s vital that you also let the customer know when you will be back to them. That way, they will have a clear idea of when they can expect a potential resolution.
3. Personalise the response
When consumers complain it’s usually on a brand’s Facebook page or Twitter account. Show the consumer that real people are dealing with their issue by using conversational language. You should also use the customer’s name in the response and sign off with your own name or initials. Avoid stock or automated social media responses; this will only frustrate the customer more.
4. Move the discussion offline
If you feel the issue won’t be resolved within a couple of responses, take the conversation offline by contacting the customer via direct message. If it is a sensitive or complicated issue, ask the customer to provide their phone number or email address and make sure a member of your team gets in touch with them immediately.
5. Provide a solution
No matter what the issue, make sure you offer a solution to the customer’s problem. Focus on how you can help them and improve the situation. Brands that show that they go the extra mile to help a customer, will get kudos in the form of positive reviews, likes and shares online.
6. Implement the solution
Offering a solution is not enough; it must be executed upon. This is an opportunity to show the customer how you go above and beyond to remedy the problem. If it’s at all possible, try to get some visuals of the solution, be it a replacement product or a handwritten note; a picture paints a thousand words.
7. Follow up
After the issue has been resolved, follow up with the customer to see if the solution you provided met with their expectations and fixed the problem. They will appreciate that you went to the effort and it demonstrates the value the company places on positive customer experiences.
8. Don’t delete complaints or negative comments
This is an obvious one but unless a customer is being abusive, don’t delete a complaint; deal with it.
9. Don’t feed the trolls
Not all complaints are genuine. There are people out there who just want to ‘troll you’ on social media and waste your time by posting inflammatory and argumentative messages just to be annoying and disruptive. The key to dealing with them is to ignore them rather than satisfy them with a reaction.
In summary, brands need to recognise the untapped opportunities of online customer complaints. They give the opportunity to demonstrate your customer-first approach and dedication to resolving problems. Rather than lose customers, you may even gain some.