Responding to complaints: positive problem solving or social media landslide?
Your customers have much more power over your success than either you or they realise, but the few that do have that realisation can bring you down a notch pretty quickly if they want to. Unfortunately, most businesses don’t yet understand this consumer power that has grown from social media, so let me explain it simply.
Merry Christmas, Now Get Out
I recently spoke with a client who had an employee in charge of collecting rent as a property manager. Before the holidays, this manager took inventory of tenants who were behind on rent and sent a text message to each asking for them to pay what they owed. The problem wasn’t the message, it was the language. The manager was apparently feeling confident or power-hungry on this particular day and constructed a message containing both vulgar language and a threat. The message read something like “Christmas is coming, pay your &H^%#@ rent or Santa will kick your a*** out”. Pleasant, right? The tenants thought so too, and took to social media to let everyone know about it. No big deal? That’s what another property manager thought when a tenant complained about plumbing that needed urgent fixing (the after-hours phone number provided had mistakenly been redirected to a random person in another state). The manager’s response to the owner, summed up: “What do I care if someone puts something on Facebook?” The answer is, you should care a lot – and here’s why.
Word of Mouth on Steroids
Have you ever had an irate customer in your place of business who gets a little loud? Your first thought might be that they will drive the other customers away, and often that becomes their goal. I know I’ve had my share of experiences with irate customers getting irrational and telling other customers on our sales floor not to do business with us because we’re cheats and liars. The ironic part was that usually these customers were the ones who caused whatever problems they had to start with, but took it out on us because we couldn’t fix their stupid mistake. Even so, it really doesn’t matter when it comes to handling a situation like this. You still should do the best you can to remedy the situation, and remain calm despite how the customer acts. The irate customer who explodes in your office or sales floor can have a negative impact on sales if they dissuade one person from buying, don’t you agree? Take that same customer and let them post their complaint in detail on Facebook for perhaps thousands to read, and the potential for the post to reach millions. How detrimental could that be?
Fix It Now or Later
If a customer complains on your social media page, you must respond to it as soon as you can to avoid needing to run damage control later. The goal is to move the conversation away from the public forum as soon as possible. You want to avoid engaging in an argument online because it is impossible to control. Never delete a customer’s complaint, no matter how tempting. If you screwed up, you must acknowledge it. The only time you can safely delete a complaint is if it is clearly a troll, or if the post violates your posting policy (I.e. Abusive language). Respond once with an apology and a solution to the problem, then follow up personally, either by phone or email to ensure the customer is satisfied. If you respond too late or the complaint garners a lot of attention you will need to put in some extra effort to mitigate any possible long-term damage it could cause. We’re in a social world for better or worse, and for most people social media is a major influencer in purchasing decisions. If they see complaints about you online without responses or with snarky remarks, you’re missing business and don’t even know it. However, if they see concerned responses that attempt to rectify the situation, they become much more likely to give you their business. Most people are not interested in the complaint itself, but are very interested in how you react to it.
“Don’t let irate customers drag your business down on social media. Be a problem-solver for your customers and they may become your biggest fans.”