Not too long ago, when a person had a complaint against a business they would pick up the phone and dial a 1-800 number and speak to a company representative. Today, it is more common for these people to turn to social networks to voice their opinions and online criticism.
Consequently, customer-service issues are being addressed on Facebook, Twitter, blogs, and other social channels, and this can pose a problem for companies that are not prepared.The San Diego Union Tribune recently published an article addressing the issue of online criticism. The article points out that companies need to realize brand-related conversations, both good and bad, are happening online, and they need to ask themselves whether they should join those conversations or not. According to Josh Bernoff and Ted Schadler, co-authors of Empowered, “consumers create 256 billion impressions on one another each year by talking about products and services within social networks. And these conversations have influence.”
It is imperative that businesses realize when a person makes an online criticism or complaint on a blog or Facebook, the complaint will not only affect the purchasing decisions of that individual, but also the decisions of people in that person’s network. Therefore, businesses can no longer wait for people to call their customer service centers before addressing an issue. They must be ready to address the issue on a one-on-one level with consumers. Empowered provides 6 tips to help businesses understand online brand conversations and how to integrate customer service with them.
First, staff should be trained on the tools and philosophies of social media and customer service. Anyone can send a tweet or post a status update on Facebook, but understanding how to combine social media and a customer-centric philosophy is much more important.
Second, a company should have a policy in place for dealing with social media. Guidelines that reflect a company’s code of ethics and brand promises help employees when they must engage in social media. Such guidelines can protect both the company and its employees.
When interacting online, tone and content are also very important. Online responses must be authentic. While it is important to have guidelines for employees to follow, it is also important that each customer interaction be unique. The foundation may exist in a policy manual, but every interaction should be somewhat unique. Additionally, humility truly is a virtue in social media. If a company has made a mistake, the message should be “we are sorry”. Owning up to a mistake can go a long way in building customer trust. Of course, it is also always a good idea to thank customers for their opinions as well. As the article states, “a happy customer is your greatest endorsement.”
Finally, the single most important bit of information comes from the article title. Company representatives must be empowered to make a difference. It is not enough to simply address a complaint. Issues must be resolved. Providing real solutions to customer problems builds trust and brand loyalty with all consumers.