The advent and growth of Social Media has become a blessing for businesses worldwide. It has given them a platform to communicate their message to their targeted audience. Small businesses can now tell their story to their customers and follower without spending thousands and thousands of dollars.
It won’t be wrong to say that social media today has provided everyone with a level playing field when it comes to getting the attention of their customers. A small restaurant can today compete with the likes of MacDonald’s and advertise their products and services without breaking the bank.
This has proved to be a boon for advertisers and business owners. They can now communicate to their audiences at any time of the day, schedule their messages to go out at particular time of the day and listen to their customers 24 hours a day.
However, Social media in addition to all the positives it has for a business, also has presented businesses with a major headache. Business now has to monitor social media 24 hours and ensure that they have the skills and resources to respond to any complains or issues round the clock.
Businesses now have to spend a lot of money on online reputation management. They have to continuously provide reputation management training to their customer service staff.
However, the perils of social media can be avoided or managed better by doing things both offline and online.
The Moment of Truth – The First Point for Reputation Management
The moment of truth is the instance when the customer and an organisation come in contact with one another. This is when a customer forms an impression about the firm. This is your first (and possibly the easiest) point of contact when it comes to brand reputation management. This is where the customer either faces an issue that makes them unhappy or their first point of call to get their issues resolved.
Your customer service team plays a very important role when it comes to solving customer queries and resolving complains. If they are equipped to handle these situations well, you can greatly reduce the amount of negative comments posted on social media.
Most of the issues on Social media can be avoided by training your customer service team in handling difficult situations and their ability to keep calm in handling a customer complaint.
If you look at most of the social media disasters, you will notice that they got worse due to the inability of the front-office staff in properly handling customer grievances.
Most people are logical and understand that everyone makes mistakes and business is no exception. Just like in your private life you expect an individual to right the wrongs; the same principle applies to businesses. Management books are full of stories where businesses converted a disgruntled customer into a customer for life (and in many cases their champions) by empathising with the consumer and resolving their complaint.
Steps Towards Better Customer Service Experience
It is important that every organisation invests in training their customer service staff in dealing with complaints and also set up procedures to allow customers to easily escalate their issues to the senior management.
This can be done by following a few basic steps.
- Empathise with your customer: Train your staff to empathise with the customer as and when they make a complaint. Your customer service staff should make the customer feel that they are on their side. Your staff should show genuine concerns and enthusiasm towards solving the customer concerns.
- Equip your staff to resolve minor issues: Most complains are minor. They only become big when a business shows reluctance in resolving those issues or shows the inability or reluctance in resolving them quickly. Setup a limit in financial terms that can help your front office staff to resolve any issues quickly (eg. maximum amount a staff member can refund or provide a credit for).
- Ability to escalate matters: Make it easy for customers to escalate their problems to the next level and have a maximum response time. Your customer service staff when unable to solve a customer complain straight away should have the ability escalate the problem for the customer or provide them guidance in escalating the issue. They should also have the ability to provide them with a reason on why they can’t resolve the issue.
- Communicate with the customer: When resolving a complaint, it’s very important to regularly communicate with the customer and keep them informed. This not only shows to them that you are working towards resolving their concern but also signals to them that you are genuinely concerned with their problem.
- Move quickly: Resolve any escalated problems quickly. Delays in resolving complaints only make customers unhappy and uncomfortable. Also as an organisation, the quickly you resolve the problems the quickly you can move on.
- Harness customer feedback: Make it a standard business practise to ask customer to provide feedback about your service/product. This will show to customers that you really care about them and their experience in dealing with your organisation. Thank any customer for positive feedback and follow up the customer if they provide negative feedback and show genuine interest in solving their problem.
These basic process will ensure that most customer problems can be solved before frustration kicks in and the customer decides to vent their anger on Social Media.
Monitor Social Media and The Internet
Organisations can try their best to reduce complaints, but there is always a chance that some bad reviews or negative comments with creep up on Google or Social media and damage their online reputation.
It is therefore important for organisations to regularly monitor social media and search engines for any bad reviews, articles or press. There are quite a few tools available to track what is being said about you and your business.
- Google Alerts: Google alerts provides you with an entry level tool to monitor when someone posts something about you on a website. It doesn’t however capture anything that is sent in social media or many blog sites. Google alerts will email you results related to any kind of search query you configure.
- Icerocket: Icerocket allows you to monitor what is being sent about you on blogs and twitter. While many other tools search for hashtags, this tool searches for keywords or keyphrases.
- HootSuite: Hootsuite is a comprehensive Social media management tool and helps you to manage all your social media accounts from one place. You can setup search columns in your account and scan social media in real time. This allows you to keep abreast with anything that is said about your organisation, with or without hashtags.
- Social Mention: Social mention allows you to monitor various other channels that cannot be monitored through the tools above. You can keep an eye on what is being said about you on blogs, microblogs, bookmarks, videos etc.
For an organisation with a bigger marketing budget, there are very powerful tools available in the market. One such tool is Radian6. Owned by Salesforce, Radian6 is a very powerful tool when it comes to brand reputation management, allowing you to quickly and efficiently track, monitor and react to customer comments, feedback and complaints.
Respond Quickly and Carefully for Better Online Reputation.
Many social media disasters can be avoided by responding to online complains earnestly and sensitively.
Your response to social media complains should be on the same lines as how you will respond to customers face to face. In fact, many people will say that you have to be more careful when responding on Social media as your response is available for the whole world to see and your organisation will be judged on your response.
Some do’s and don’ts on when responding to an adverse comment on social media are:
- Apologies: The first thing you do when faced with a bad review is to apologies to the customer that they had to go through the bad experience and be genuine about it. Thank them for bringing the issue to your notice and show them that you want to resolve the issue.
- Don’t get aggressive: It is very easy to take any comments/reviews left on social media personally and get aggressive in your response. When faced with a negative review/post, thank the customer for raising the issue and request them to contact the organisation directly by providing them with the contact details of someone who can resolve the dispute. Even if the reviewer doesn’t respond, it will at least signal that you are sincere about positive customer experience.
- Don’t make excuses: A basic human tendency is to hide behind excuses. An aggrieved customer does not like to hear excuses and wants to see action towards resolving their complaint. People see excuses as what they really are excuses – lack of willingness to solve their problem.
- Make things right: Make your best effort to resolve the customer query. Try your best to ensure that they are happy with the outcome. Close the social media discussion with thanking the customer for bringing it to your attention and to contact you if they have any further issues.
View Negative Reviews as A Reputation Building Opportunity
Never take a bad review as a customer fault or a plot against your business by a disgruntled employee or a competitor. It may be true that the customer is not always right; however customers now have a lot more power and leverage. You have to find a way to use these negative comments in your favour. The only way you can do this is by showing to the world that you take customer reviews seriously and want to not only resolve customer complaints but also learn from these complaints.