Consumer complaints have come a long way in recent years. It wasn’t that long ago that your only options for offering your feedback to a company were writing a letter, making a telephone call or having a discussion face-to-face. Writing a letter takes effort and patience while you wait for a reply, and using the phone to speak to someone (if the company even offered telephone support / enquiries) could be a painful process which completely goes against the British nature, and a face-to-face complaint even more so. What if your complaint is ignored or dismissed? What is the next step? Before the internet took off, complaints were very much a closed forum and if you weren’t happy with the resolution there wasn’t much more you could do.
Fast forward to a world where almost every business has a presence on a range of social media channels, all offering the consumer the chance to give real-time feedback on your products or service. Not only is the expectation now that you will resolve the issue in a much faster time frame than before, but now consumers have the benefit of their dispute being open for the world to see, and tricky situations are now unfolding with an audience, sat back with the popcorn judging how you handle every single issue.
This might seem like a daunting prospect, but having these channels open can really help you develop your business and improve on the little things that you might have never realised are holding you back. Previously these snippets of feedback might have just stayed in your customer’s mind and kept them from returning, but now you have a chance to redeem things and win them round. Here are some tips on dealing with customers online feedback.
If you’re going to have these channels open it’s important to keep an eye on what’s happening. If you have a twitter channel, you can have the app on your phone and you’ll get notified whenever someone messages or mentions you in a comment. It is possible to configure apps separately on an iPhone and Android so that notifications only happen during set hours. You can set this up so you only get alerted during the working day, or however would work best for you.
If you have a complaint that sits unaddressed while you post offers or other activity this will not look good. In other articles we recommend the use of facebook’s scheduling function and third party services including HootSuite which can make your social media planning far easier – but it is worth bearing in mind that if you have content going out but haven’t responded to a customer, you might look ignorant or insensitive.
If you’re daunted by the prospect of handling interactions on your social media channels, take time to look at how large supermarkets or the big players in your industry are dealing with things on social media. Tesco clearly got serious with social media way before the other supermarkets did, and you just know that somewhere in the UK there’s a room with at least 30 people who are employed solely to respond to consumer feedback on Twitter. They have a protocol to follow for the negative feedback (of which there is plenty) but also spend time engaging with the positives and work hard to portray a sense of fun.
If you’re looking at how other companies handle their social media feedback, one thing you’ll notice is that generally once the issue has been recognised, the company will make an immediate apology and then try to take the conversation out of the public eye, by requesting the consumer send an email or a direct message. On Twitter this does make sense as direct messages are not limited to 140 characters like the tweets would be. Be aware that if the matter isn’t addressed in private, the consumer could return to the open platform to vent further frustration.
The internet might have made it easier to complain, but it’s also made it easier for customers to let you know they’re happy with the service. We’re getting access to that ever-so-valuable recommendation or testimonial, and it’s important to communicate with these comments too. Let them know you’re grateful for their words, and engage with them to find out which element of your product or service they particularly loved. Share and retweet these positive posts across your social media channels.
The technology might have moved on, but the rules of customer service are the same as they’ve always been. The three steps of complaint resolution - Listen, empathise and resolve are as valid for issues on social media as they are with a customer standing in front of you.
Sitting in the safety of your own home offers consumers a confidence to highlight issues they might not have been brave enough to address face-to-face. Unfortunately this same security does encourage people to be unnecessarily nasty or abusive, and your company certainly wouldn’t be the first to deal with inappropriate comments from users who might not even be actual customers. While your responses to genuine complaints will be judged by other users, you would not usually be expected to engage with people who are clearly out to cause trouble.