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Disaster or Delight: Responding to Social Media Complaints

Social Media ReputationEveryone stops to stare when they see a car crash.

The same sort of idea applies to social media and bad customer service: if your company screws up and a customer complains on Facebook, Twitter, etc., chances are a lot of people will engage in a bit of online rubbernecking.

Think of director Kevin Smith – 2.8 million Twitter followers – documenting his removal from a Southwest Airlines flight in 2010 after the pilot said Smith was too overweight to fly. The airline apologized, but that didn’t stop the story from going viral, or the National Association for Fat Acceptance from calling for a boycott.

But a bad customer service experience doesn’t need to involve a well-known filmmaker up against a giant corporation to go viral.

Think of your own Facebook feed, and how often you see your friends and acquaintances share a story about a bad experience at a local business.

It takes a company 12 positive exchanges to make up for one negative experience that gets shared.  And those experiences tend to get shared only after the customer is at their wits end.

Here are four tips to keep that from happening, courtesy of Donna de Winter, CFO of Vision Critical.

1. Figure Out The Context

While it’s important to acknowledge the customer’s concern, it’s also important to get some context. As de Winter notes, the person’s Twitter timeline might be nothing but complaints to corporate accounts, or they might be someone with 100,000 followers who rarely mentions brands by name. They could be a valued customer, and one with a lot of social media clout.

2. Let Them Hear From Someone In Authority

It’s important not to let a bad situation fester. Engage as soon as possible, and from a position of authority, de Winter writes. “Social media has become too powerful to leave in the hands of someone without some level of brand authority.” Customers with complaints need to feel like they’re talking to someone beyond the level of intern.

3. Take Their Feedback Seriously

Processing feedback and then applying it to your company “can be a game changer,” especially when a complaint includes a suggestion on how things could be done better, de Winter notes. It might mean investing in some consulting work or forming an in-house group to evaluate the problem. There’s the potential for cost in terms of time and money, but also the potential for rewards.

4. Learn From The Experience

Responding to these complaints doesn’t mean much if your business doesn’t act on what it’s learned. “Customer intelligence drives action, even as simple a fix as creating a protocol document outlining how to reach to future angry customers or something as massive as a company rebrand,” de Winter writes.

Positive Experiences Can Go Viral Too

The good news is that while people will customers will share their negative experiences, they’ll go online to trumpet their positive ones as well, especially if your company has gone above and beyond the call of duty to help them out.

There are a number of examples of this, but one of the best is the story of Joshie the Giraffe and the Ritz-Carlton hotel chain.

In 2012, Chris Hurn family’s were staying at a Ritz-Carlton in Florida, and his young son left behind his stuffed giraffe.

The boy was of course upset at being separated from a cherished friend, so Hurn told his boy that Joshie had decided to spend a few extra days at the hotel.

That night, the hotel called to say they’d found Joshie, and Hurn asked them for a favor: Before shipping the giraffe back, could they take a picture of it by the pool to back up his story?

The hotel was better than its word. When Joshie arrived in the mail, he was packaged with some Ritz-Carlton swag and a binder full of photos showing his time at the Ritz after the Hurns had left.

This is the core principal behind the concept of delighted customers: surprising the people who want your product or service by exceeding his or her expectations, and leading them to share their experiences.

If you need to work on ways to delight your customers, IQnection can help you figure out an inbound marketing social media strategy,

Hurn, a corporate CEO, shared his story on the Huffington Post.  As of this writing, 3,559 people had shared it on Facebook, and another 4,624 had shared it on Twitter.

Where will your customers share their stories about their experience with you? And more importantly, what will they have to say?

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