Social media opens up a lot of avenues for brands to connect with consumers, but like Spider-Man, with great power comes great responsibility. Creating a social media presence for your brand means opening the doors to positive interactions as well as negative commentary, which is where brands can run into trouble.
Negativity will always find its way to you as unhappy consumers will use your and their personal platforms to call you out. It’s easy to ignore, delete and even block this type of content, but don't let temptation get the best of you. That doesn’t build trust in your brand or create relationships that can be leveraged over time. Consumers are smart, and brands behaving this way will lose all credibility in the social space and eventually, offline as well.
We know ignoring, blocking and deleting negativity will only make the problem worse, but how do we make it better?
Know the Situation
Dealing with a social media customer service issue isn’t the same as receiving a complaint through a phone call or email, where the conversation is private and between the brand and the consumer.
Social media is public, anyone can see the complaint of someone else at any given moment, which means it’s important to act swiftly and respond meaningfully. There are no hours of operation. The boundaries of social media customer service are non-existent.
Social customers bring different characteristics. They have a monitor and keyboard between themselves and brands, which means they have no fear. Why would they? When they call you out, your brand is guilty until proven innocent. They have time to research and contemplate interactions with brands. These customers are armed with knowledge and only respond to ingenuity. Attempting otherwise will only deepen a problem.
Seize the Opportunity
The first time you receive negative feedback from a customer online can be a bit scary, but don’t panic. That customer has simply served up an opportunity to make your relationship with him or her stronger, right any wrongs, share accurate information and showcase your brands points-of-difference. This is a public space and people are watching. The right approach means a positive interaction will affect more than just the customer with a problem, so take those detractors and arm them with the information and service to turn them to advocates!
Fulfill the Promise
Consumers expect a helpful response in the social space. It’s an unspoken rule. If you’re brand is out there, you’re able to address concerns and provide solutions (or at least should be).
Every issue is unique, which means every issue requires a different approach. However, there are some things you can do to set your brand up for a positive outcome:
- Don’t be a robot. Be competent, accessible at any time and personal. Consumers can see right through a standard, prepared response that doesn’t speak to them directly. Let them know that there’s a person behind a response who is thinking of them, eager to help and ready to address their individual problem.
- Personalize and customize. Address the customer by name, be professional (never get into an argument), customize the message and respond quickly (they need help).
- Provide a real solution. There’s no point in tiptoeing around a problem. Consumers will see right through it. Be straightforward and honest. You don’t have to disclose anything that will hurt your brand, but instead, provide the mechanisms and resources to help the customer. The key is to never leave the customer hanging. Always, leave them with a takeaway, whether it’s a resolution or next step.
- Take the Conversation Offline (when needed). Even if a customer service issue starts online, it doesn’t have to be resolved there. Under circumstances that include personal information, you don’t have control and the customer is a little irrational, or you have a resolution that you don’t want to be public, take the conversation offline. Give the customer the contact information (email, phone number) and name of who they should connect with. Don’t forget to ask them to post a follow-up to their original complaint to let others know that everything got taken care of if they're inclined to do so.
Consumers are online, and if you’re so lucky to have them interacting with you, they expect value in return. Part of that is proving yourself as a resource and partner. Do that to build trust, which will in turn lead to advocacy and long-term success.