Editors Note: This is a guest post written by Paula O’Sullivan – Social Media Consultant at Social Media Business Boosters. Her opinions are her own.
With two thirds of us using social media regularly, there’s a good chance your business is being talked about somewhere in cyberspace. Sometimes it’s good, sometimes it’s not.
Users take to the many platforms available, especially Facebook and Twitter, when they’ve had a wonderful experience. Conversely, when someone has had a bad experience with you, it’s safe to assume that it will end up on the internet somewhere, most likely on your company’s own Facebook page or Twitter.
Criticism itself may not damage your brand. However, the way your business handles it can directly impact your brand perception.
So how do you manage you brand reputation in social spaces online?
1. Get all the facts
Your first reaction to a complaint could well be to take it personally and to delete the comment.
Avoid doing this.
Instead offer to speak to the disgruntled customer over the phone to establish the basis for their complaint. With all the facts you can address the problem and if appropriate offer compensation.
2. Stay calm
Another reaction to a negative comment could also be to get defensive. Even more so if you feel the comment isn’t warranted, a defensive reaction often makes something minor major.
Keep calm, put your personal feelings aside, and manage the complaint objectively.
3. Keep on top of your social media
Social media plays out in real time – a major strength for communicating with your customers. On the downside what could have started out as a small concern can often blow up into a major one in no time at all if it is not addressed quickly.
In September 2013 when a British Airways customer whose father had luggage lost on a flight tweeted – “Don’t fly @BritishAirways. Their customer service is horrendous.” it was estimated the tweet was viewed by 76,000 users before the company responded.
Why? The company did not have a dedicated resource to manage their social media outside of normal business hours.
Earlier this year a customer of a major Australian bank had received zero response from the standard ‘customer service’ channels and had been unable to access her money for nearly two weeks while traveling overseas.
She took to social media and tweeted “cr@p bank” along with various other hashtags criticising the bank’s service. The bank’s social media ‘crisis management’ team jumped on it and the matter was resolved literally in a matter of hours.
Monitor your social media regularly and always be proactive. If you don’t have the capacity to do it yourself – train designated employees to respond on your behalf. And always respond promptly.
4. Fix and follow up
Mistakes happen. If your business was at fault, fix it.
If nothing else it has given you the opportunity to improve your business and its credibility in the eyes of your current as well as potential customers.
With the issue resolved go back to the person who made the complaint to check that it has been resolved. By doing this you are demonstrating you listen and treat complaints seriously. Other followers will see how you have handled the complaint and will see firsthand how well you handle negative experiences.
5. Plan for the bad stuff
Incorporate ‘Negativity Management’ into your social media strategy. Even the best businesses will have experienced an unhappy customer no matter how hard they work on delivery and customer satisfaction. By having a plan aimed at managing complaints, you won’t be left scrambling when the inevitable happens.
6. Share your social media plan with your employees
Share the plan and offer your staff training on how to manage angry customers online in a diplomatic way. This will make your social media strategy stronger and will improve your overall customer service experience.
GoDaddy provides a good example of having a crisis communication strategy in place.
In 2012, their service went down directly impacting thousands of customers. As the dominate player in low cost hosting this was a major catastrophe. They responded quickly via social media letting their customers know what had happened and more importantly how it was being addressed and this was then followed up with regular updates. The result was surprising, with customers praising GoDaddy for their quick response and customer service.
This highlights the importance of having a sound negative management strategy in place. It means you can respond quickly and appropriately protecting the reputation of your business.
Above all else remember negative comments and your approach to them will play out in a very public forum where you can be easily judged.
If people perceive you to have handled a situation badly it will be amplified as they retweet or comment on your post. Remember be genuine, don’t patronise or be sarcastic and show you are willing to listen and learn from your customers.
By adopting these techniques you address criticism and educate people on your brand. You can take control of the conversation and steer the negative experience into a positive one. The critic will focus less on the negative and more on the positive turning them into your strongest brand champion.
Over to you. What experiences have you had with social media and how could you have perhaps managed them more effectively?
Paula O’Sullivan is a Social Media Consultant with Social Media Business Boosters. With over 10 years communications experience she helps businesses build and execute successful social media campaigns.