written by Sean Smith | February 25th, 2013
It was like watching a snowball rolling down a hill. It picked up steam, got bigger and you just knew that when it hit, it was going to make a BIG mess. A formal wear and dress shop on Vancouver Island did some pretty poor customer service, a blogger wrote about it, the company fired back on their Facebook page (which they have since taken down) and Social Media did what it often does: it took off with a mind of its own.
So what do you do if Social Media turns on you and really hits the fan? How can you turn a customer service fail into a marketing win?
Don’t Just Close Your Eyes.
Believe it or not, just covering your eyes and hoping the angry comments will go away is about as far from reality as you can get without hopping on the crazy train. Once the first comments come and are shared, it will come fast and furious, depending on the level of supposed “bad” customer service. If you are paying attention to your Social Media feeds, you can potentially head them off by offering a solution to the issue.
Note that I say solution, not reason or excuse. Solution. While no business wants to feel that they have done wrong, this is one of the times where the customer is always right. Offering a solution, or even asking those in the stream what might be a good resolution to the issue, is the way to put the brakes on that rocket sled of bad comments.
From Antagonist to Advocate.
The goal of adding your input into the stream should not to be to try and stop it, but to change the direction of it. While most business owners will shy away from a flood of complaints, on Social Media you have no place to hide, and shutting down your accounts will only make it worse. By engaging the customers in their conversation and encouraging them to provide their thoughts on what can be done to make things work better, you change the direction from con to pro in the same time it took to turn into the mess it was becoming.
If a businesses owners focus an all out effort to ensure that all the questions are answered and solutions are offered, all the people watching will say “Hey. They admitted to the mistake and took ownership of it. That’s some good customer service!” Now you have people talking about your brand, not talking at your brand. Even more important, make every effort to reach out to the original poster or person who was at the beginning of the anti-you mission. Fix that first!
Step Away from the Keyboard.
One of the first things that the Vancouver Island store did wrong was that they answered back, defending themselves, loudly. In Social Media, where everyone has an opinion, informed or uniformed, this is like a red flag in front of a bull. You won’t win. If you feel like you need to say something that is just short of “this person was an idiot and deserved the service they got”, you need to step away from the keyboard. If you have someone else working on your Social Media (especially if you are a larger company) you need to tell those staffers what direction you want the conversation to go and how you want to come across. Remember, this is your business and your brand is at stake.
The Angry Hordes Retreat.
If you have engaged, discussed, planned action and followed up, those massed to watch your demise should now be ready to be marketed to. You have an entire new set of eyeballs on you and, if you were paying attention, you have made note of who and where they all are and you are ready to thank them for participating in the “discussion”. When the dust has settled and you have fixed the issues, you offer people to continue to follow and engage, offer ideas and suggestions and, most of all, continue to visit your online and offline locations. If done right, people that were ready to join in the Social Media lynching of your business will now be talking about the business that listens to its customers: your business.
If that Social Media snowball starts rolling your way, look to do the following:
- If you are on Social Media and you have an especially bad experience with a customer, say so. “Very unhappy customer today. Left before we could offer a solution. Hope they come back to chat.”
- If comments start to flow, before you can get to it, jump in with “Yeah. We messed that one up, but we are about learning from our mistakes. Any thoughts on what we might do to turn it around?” Some will keep after you, but others will notice the effort.
- If you are REALLY late to the game, give a reason that points to a solution. “We have been watching and learning from all of your comments. Thank you for your input. We are attempting enact some of those ideas ASAP”.
- Write the angriest, all-caps, in-my-defence, rant you can, in your favourite word processor. Then delete it. You need to get it off your chest, so you may as well let your sub-conscious think you did.
Social Media posts may have a life cycle of roughly 13 or so hours and an angry mob won’t stay angry forever, but you cannot wait for time to pass. You see, the Internet NEVER forgets.