Social media is great for connecting your business to your customers, and allowing them to have direct close access to you can be a boon for your brand image. However, unfettered access also means that more customers feel free to complain either directly or indirectly about companies through social media. In this media climate, it’s important to leverage your PR skills to positive effect, and here’s how.
Your customer turned to social media to complain because they are looking for an immediate response, and while you may be busy with product development meetings or vendor calls, these seemingly-small, Facebook-born comments should receive similar attention. Make sure that you get back to them as soon as you see the complaint.
Have a dedicate twitter account for issues
Social media is all about context, which is why big corporations create accounts specifically for reporting and responding to issues, decluttering their primary social feed and filtering the important messages from the fluff. Nike and Comcast are two examples of companies that have dedicated accounts on twitter for customers experiencing issues for precisely these reasons. If your company is big enough, create a dedicated account where customers can reach you when something has gone amiss.
Be responsive around the clock
Know your business well and when your customers will be using your services. If you are a restaurant, for example, you can expect to hear from customers late in to the evening if they have had a bad dinner experience. Monitor your account around the clock as best you can or, better yet, dedicate staff to the task so that you can respond quickly.
Address the issue and offer a solution
In your response, be sure to restate the problem so it is clear you understand it, and give your customer a solution if one is available. Communication requires empathy and efficiency, and this approach will achieve both.
Offer new information they might not have access to
Airlines can frequently update the customer as to the status of cancelled or delayed flights quickly before that information is disseminated at the gate. Give the customer all the information you have as they might not have access to it. This will also show that you are paying close attention to their particular circumstances.
If no solution is available offer empathy
Sometimes no immediate solution is available, but it is important to respond as fast you can. A simple “We sincerely apologize for any inconvenience. That sounds like an awful time/situation/experience. We are working on it and will get back to you soon” can calm an angry customer while you work on a solution.
Direct them to resources where answers or solutions may be found
When you can’t provide the solution over social media, let them know where they can go to receive resolution, be it an email address they need to contact or a store manager they need to talk to directly. Keep in mind that social media channels aren’t the most appropriate avenue for obtaining things like account numbers or private information, so be sure to direct them to someone offline that can help them.
Be aware of your twitter account and follow your tags and hashtags
Someone on your staff needs to have alerts set for any tags or hashtags customers might
utilize to try and reach you. Pay attention to them, particularly if you intend to use them for support purposes.
Answer all of the questions asked (not just the easy one)
When writing your response go back and look at the original complaint. It may be easy to address just one issue but they may have had several questions or concerns. Address each and every one, clearly and effectively.
Rectify what you can
Make the situation right as fast as you can. You can’t fix every aspect of their problem but whatever issue you can fix, do so quickly. Remedying even a portion of the customer’s problem will be seen as progress and improve your image as a result.
Follow through with the issue
Chances are you won’t solve the problem on the first go around so go back and check in with your customer. Did they get a new flight? Was the broken item replaced? Etc etc. Follow up with the customer and demonstrate compassion, empathy, and dedication to their needs in the process. Do not wait to be asked for additional assistance!
Show customer appreciation
Proactively reach out to customers who are mentioning your company in a positive way. If someone takes a picture at your business and tags you, repost/retweet it! If you get a positive review on Facebook contact the customer and say thank you. These small actions will show that you are listening, potentially turning one time reviewers into brand evangelists.
Provide a real world solution
The coffee was cold? Offer to replace their cup free of charge. Car wasn’t repaired properly? Have them bring it back in. If it was a tangible problem offer a tangible solution, and remember that generosity is remembered, blogged about, rewarded, and retweeted.
Don’t remove complaints
It can be tempting to remove a complaint after you have addressed the concern, but leaving them alone should be standard practice for your business. Make sure that your responses and solutions are in the comments section or your direct reply to the tweet. New customers will see the complaint but also see that you were responsive and accommodating to customer needs.
Above all reply and act in a professional manner. Your customer might be rude or upset but it is your job to maintain your calm and mitigate the situation as fast as you can. Remember: a crabby customer is an issue, but a positive response is an asset, and your customers will notice that.
In an age of ubiquitous social media, communication comes from many inboxes. Tend to your Twitter and Facebook accounts and exercise professionalism, and your wall will become a testament to your dedication to your customers.