By Priya Ramesh (@newpr)
I have a friend (who shall remain anonymous on this post) who happens to be a very successful blogger and someone whose tweets and online comments are taken very seriously. She also happens to be one of those customers that depending on how your company responds to customer complaints on social media, may become your brand evangelist or you worst PR nightmare. Welcome to the Digital Age where it’s easier to express your frustration in 140 characters and start an online attack that dampens all the hard work you invested into building a stellar brand reputation. But it’s not all dark and depressing; brands that listen and respond to complaints in a timely manner are reaping the benefits of high positive brand sentiment online, customers referring them to prospects and in certain cases increasing sales online through positive word of mouth.
- A majority (50.7%) of consumers currently use social media to communicate with corporations.
- Moreover, 78% of respondents believe that social media platforms would either soon entirely replace other means of customer service altogether or become the dominant way for consumers to
communicate with corporations.
- More than half of consumers surveyed (55 percent) were disappointed by big brands’ communication on social media.
“If people have a bad experience in-store, they will tweet it — amplifying it 100 fold,” Joshua March, CEO of Conversocial, told Business Insider. “This can have a massive negative affect.” In fact, 88 percent of consumers were unlikely to buy from a brand that ignored their complaints on Facebook or Twitter.
As long as online search remains the first step to a consumer buying process, online mentions will remain a key focus for brand and online reputation managers. The main goal and sometimes the most basic goal of your social media efforts should be to protect and maintain your corporate reputation, decrease the negative mentions and increase the positive word of mouth for your products and services. Companies that have made it a business priority to establish and pro-active LISTEN AND RESPOND strategy to customer enquiries, complaints and also kudos, do better in the long term to maintain customer loyalty and a profitable online reputation. The ones that think they can get away with not responding to customer enquiries on their Facebook page or on Twitter are doing more damage to their marketing and PR efforts and in some case sending potential customers to their competitors who have chosen to “Listen and Respond.”
The Conversocial study shows how brands not responding to customers on their Facebook page might be sending out the wrong signal to their prospective buyers. 49.5% said that if they went to a company’s Facebook page and saw a bunch of unanswered questions and customer complaints, they are far less likely to buy anything from that company. The perception consumers get when they see unanswered questions and complaints on a company’s Facebook page is that, “If you haven’t taken the time to respond on Facebook, if I ever needed customer care, I am more likely to be ignored as well.”
I am sure you are now going to call for a meeting with your social media and customer service teams to identify a process that streamlines how to best respond to customers online in a timely and useful manner. At CRT/tanaka, we have helped several of our clients with social media training that helps them identify a SWAT team comprising of customer service, product marketing and social media/PR departments to identify and formalize a company-wide process to LISTEN, RESPOND and RE-ENGAGE with customers. We have time and again seen positive results from our clients especially in the consumer and healthcare space where by purely responding to questions and complaints, we have alleviated a lot of heart ache in the long run. It’s not rocket science but yes there is a decent amount of planning and preparation involved to:
- Identify potential risks, dominant themes in customer complaints
- Establish an enterprise-wide process to provide a timely and useful response to customer enquiries online
- Aggregate repeated product or service related complaints to be shared with Product Marketing or Product Engineering teams so companies can get real-time feedback on what’s working and not working from a consumer standpoint
- Demonstrate in Action that you have truly listened to their frustrations and have done something to enhance the customer experience. This stage is probably where most companies who may listen and respond sometimes fail to deliver. This step is very crucial in the Online Reputation Management (ORM) process because at some point, the company MUST walk the talk when they respond to angry tweets saying, “We are sorry, we heard you and are working on fixing this issue.”
According to the Conversocial survey, restaurants and department stores seem to be scoring brownie points by delivering excellent customer service on social media and some of their counterparts in the banking and telecommunications space who may have the mindset of “Oh we don’t need to respond online…” I highly recommend following CVS, Citibank, JetBlue and BestBuy on Twitter to get more insights on how a brand can provide great customer service online.
I hope this post would have inspired you to consider adding a social media policy and process to your company’s customer service program. Social media is here to stay and your customers are talking about you regardless of you wanting to engage with them or not. If you truly care about “dialogue” and “relationship” with your customers, why wouldn’t you want to turn angry customers into brand ambassadors by staying active on social channels?
Leave a comment to share an example of a good/bad social customer service that you have experienced recently.