Social media has opened up so many possibilities in terms of connecting with customers. While most business owners are excited to deepen customer relationships online, it can be terrifying to publicly display negative feedback and await the consequences of how other customers will react.
But the rules for communicating with customers on social media are rapidly changing, and two important trends have emerged. The first is that savvy businesses are learning to embrace bad feedback online. Negative comments on social media can be an opportunity to turn a doubter into a loyal customer and show off your superior customer care to other potential buyers. The second trend has to do with customer expectations for instant gratification. Consumers have become accustomed to getting acknowledgement of their posts within a day, and now expect that type of response from every business they buy from.
Here are the new rules for communicating with customers on social media.
Negative feedback isn’t inherently bad. It gives you the opportunity to change a customer’s mind.
Bad Reviews Aren’t All Bad
It can be heartbreaking to hear that while you thought everything was going well in your business, a customer was completely unsatisfied. Try not to take it personally. Instead, work to understand the customer’s complaint, and where he or she is coming from.
After all, negative feedback isn’t inherently bad. It gives you the opportunity to change a customer’s mind. If they didn’t care about your response, they wouldn’t have reached out. It’s also a valuable opportunity for feedback that could change your business for the better. Having a mix of positive and negative feedback actually helps build credibility and trust. A squeaky-clean online presence is not as convincing.
So, don’t delete negative feedback, unless it’s totally inappropriate.
It’s also worth mentioning that you should avoid responding to customer posts when you are emotional. If you’re angered by what someone said, you may get defensive and do more damage. Make sure to get in the right mindset to handle customer service interactions.
Freebies Can be Good, if Used Strategically
While some customers complain on social media to try to get freebies, it’s far from the norm.
However, making disgruntled customers happy with complimentary products or services presents an opportunity to gather more detailed customer insights. Consider offering free gift cards or discounts to customers who’ve shared negative feedback in exchange for filling out more extensive feedback surveys that can provide valuable ideas for improving your business. A strategy like this can be more effective than blindly giving away your products or services to anyone who has something negative to say.
Reply Quickly and Publicly
Perhaps thanks to the instantaneous nature of social media, and users’ declining attention spans, when someone reaches out to a business online, they expect a quick answer.
Brent Jones recommends, “When a customer has something positive to say, it’s worth a share (a retweet on a platform like Twitter). At the very least, it should be acknowledged. Behavior that gets recognized and rewarded gets repeated.”
All customer comments on social media—both good and bad—should be responded to within 24 hours. If you can’t commit to doing that, delegate to someone who can. Nothing looks worse than a Facebook page with customer complaints from three months ago that were never addressed.”
Hoffman recommends, “Even if you can’t resolve an issue immediately, businesses should tell customers they received the message, and that they will get back to them as soon as they can resolve it.” Just make sure to follow through.
In today’s world, customer service is a spectator sport. It’s important to make your response publicly visible. People should be able to see that you take negative feedback seriously.
Reply on ALL Channels
Different online (and offline) channels hold different expectations in terms of responses and response time. But regardless of where a customer initiated contact, it’s important to answer every customer, on every channel, every time.
Tools like ReviewTrackers and Sprout Social’s Smart Inbox help companies stay on top of customer feedback and make it possible to easily work as a team without duplicating efforts. Hootsuite and TweetDeck can likewise be set up as listening (and responding) platforms.
Sometimes it’s easy to locate customer feedback. But, commonly, customers will launch into a rant without tagging a company’s official social media account. Tools like Mention can help find these somewhat hidden feedback opportunities, making it easy to act on them.
Hoffman adds, “Try to keep the conversation on the platform in which the customer engaged you. It’s annoying when you tweet or Facebook-message a brand, and they tell you to send them an email, or go to some website to file the complaint. This is bad customer service/overall experience.”
For additional insights on this topic, Jay Baer’s book, Hug Your Haters, provides insights backed by a research study.
When a customer has something positive to say, it’s worth a share (a retweet on a platform like Twitter). At the very least, it should be acknowledged. Behavior that gets recognized and rewarded gets repeated.
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