Social media and customer complaints

Social media is such an important tool for retailers – but it also allows customers to vent their frustrations in a public forum. These things often go viral, but so often retailers can avoid such issues. Here are some things to bear in mind about customer complaints via social media.

  1. Act quickly – More often than not, consumers turn to social media when things turn sour – like when a retailer doesn’t respond to a complaint that may have been made on the phone, via email or in store. When the customer takes to social media, their hundreds of friends, and friends of friends, then know about it. It’s not rocket science to know that’s damaging for your brand.  The best thing to do is to act quickly – respond to complaints immediately, before they have a chance to get to social media. Or, if a complaint is made via social media, then respond to that query immediately (ideally within one working day), even if it’s just to say you’ve received their complaint and are investigating a solution. Even more important is to then provide that solution, or regular updates, within 24-28 hours.
  2. Get to know your customer and personalise where you can. Before you reply, is there anything you can find out about your customer via their Facebook audience profile or via your CRM system? Acknowledge them by name, don’t use generic ‘dear customer’ replies as that will annoy them even more.
  3. If the complaint gets lengthy, then it’s always better to take it offline. You don’t want a trail of complaints on your Facebook page. It’s dangerous territory – and is also easily shareable. Don’t underestimate the value of a personalised phone call. Allowing the customer to complain directly to a person and get an immediate response can often alleviate further angst. It will also be a faster way to solve the problem. Just ensure the person representing your business is cool, calm and collected! And, importantly, knows what they can offer as a solution.
  4. Plan ahead and be solution focussed – Plan ahead for solutions to combat varying levels of complaints. Prepare by brainstorming a series of common (and not so common) case study complaints relevant to your business and rank them. Decide then what type of solutions you will offer to fix the problem.
  5. Keep communication lines open. The golden rule is the customer is always right, and keeping the lines of communication open is important. Make a note to call them a week later to check in with them and ensure they’re satisfied with the outcome and received any compensation that was promised. Remember, trust takes time to build, but can be lost in an instant. By following up and offering good customer service, you may just turn a complaint into a customer for life. Companies are often judged by the way they handle the difficult situations and going the extra mile provides a big tick.
  6. What if it’s your fault? No one is perfect, and some complaints are justified. If this happens, acknowledge the case in point and move on. It’s not worth playing the blame game and risk losing a customer. Be the bigger person.

Michael Jenkins is CEO of Shout! Web Strategy.

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