You’re at the airport traveling from NYC to the Bahamas for a company business trip. You have to make it to the hotel by 10 am to check in on time for the convention you’re attending. But don’t worry. You’re a planner, so you arrived at the airport early, security was a breeze, and you’re waiting at the gate reading a magazine. Everything is right in the world, and you sip the froth of your just-purchased Starbucks coffee when the gate attendant picks up the microphone: “We’re sorry for the delay…” And that’s just the beginning. When you finally board the plane, you’re stuck on the tarmac for an hour; up in the air, the TV is out at your seat; and when you finally land at 2 pm (now you just missed lunch!), you discover your luggage has been lost. And you just bought a new swimsuit too! Angry and frustrated by the situation at hand, what do you do? We all know the answer. It’s 2016. You take to your iPhone, and you tweet.
“Angry and frustrated by the situation at hand, what do you do? We all know the answer. It’s 2016. You take to your iPhone, and you tweet.“
Does this situation sound familiar? In today’s day and age, it should. 67% of consumers have used a company’s social media channel for customer service (that’s about double the 33% that interact with a company’s social media channel for marketing or sales purposes). This is why we love being social at Kathy Kuo Home (In fact, let’s do a shameless plug: follow us on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest for daily inspiration and to keep up with these blog articles!). Being on social media allows us to share our love of design with all of you, connect with interior designers, find inspiration, and communicate effectively with all of our customers. We want your experience (whether you’re a designer, architect, buyer, or average consumer) to be easy and delightful. But anyone who has ordered furniture knows that things don’t always go as planned… and sometimes people are going to get upset.
“67% of consumers have used a company’s social media channel for customer service…”
We’re here to say: “That’s okay!” The goal of this article is twofold. For designers, bloggers, and anybody trying to build a brand, these are the tips and best practices we’ve found to provide clients and customers with the absolute best service. And for our customers, this article is a promise to you in how we deal with complaints on social media. Here are the do’s and don’ts we’ve discovered. Enjoy!
Plain and simple, you can’t reply to complaints that you don’t know exist. Set up Google Alerts, and use a social media management tool (there are a ton!) to keep track of every message and tag that comes your way. As Micah Solomon pointed out in an article for Forbes magazine, in social media the recipe for failure is simple: “small problems + slow response = disaster.”
“42% of customers expect a response within thirty minutes.”
The slower you are to reply to a complaint, the more the issue is going to escalate before you get a chance to resolve the issue at hand. In fact, 42% of customers expect a response within thirty minutes. One word of caution: ensure that you have a full grasp of the situation before entering the conversation. Nothing looks more unprofessional in these situations than being unprepared.
Empathize and Apologize
Perhaps the only thing worse than ignoring a complaint is replying with a generic corporate response. No one wants to hear you read to them from the fine print of a policy page. Even if it is the case that you can’t help them, show empathy. Start by introducing yourself and addressing them by name. Connect on a human level so that the customer understands they’re talking to a person and not some big, faceless company (especially on social media when you’re typically represented as a logo or avatar). Mirror their sentence structure, and before you do anything else, acknowledge how they feel and explain how you feel just as bad. A lot of the time, the customer just wants to know that they’re being heard.
After this, it is important to apologize. Even if the issue at hand is not directly the fault of the company, respond with something along the lines of, “I’m so sorry to hear that.” (Reminder: use “I” and not “We”). And if the issue is at the fault of the company, own up to it. A strong, direct apology will always earn you more respect than a flimsy half-apology. (“I’m sorry you feel that way,” is one of the wimpiest and insulting apologies out there. Stay away from anything that places blame on the customer instead of yourself).
Offer to Make It Right
Apologizing is only half the battle. What really makes for a returning customer is when they receive not only an apology but a solution. Make sure to do everything in your power to fix the situation. And go the extra mile to gather any additional information that might be helpful to them now or for a future purchase.
Once you’ve responded to a complaint on social media, you’re not quite done. Follow up to make sure you‘ve fully met the customer‘s needs. Reaching out personally lets customers know that you value their opinion and put their needs ahead of your daily tasks. It’s typically best to follow-up with the customer within a couple of days. Following up is also a way in which we like to gather feedback about the customer‘s overall experience and make changes to ensure we’re providing the best customer service we can give.
Don’t Delete or Get Defensive
If you don’t already know it, let us tell you a story about Barbara Streisand. In 2003, talented Barbara sued a photographer for taking photos of her Malibu home and for using the photos in a coastal records project. But inadvertently, Streisand’s aggressive defensiveness and attempt to conceal these photos just brought media and public attention and resulted in the distribution of the photograph all over the internet, and even on t-shirts and mug. This event birthed the term “the Streisand effect,” and it’s something brands want to avoid at all costs. So, don’t delete complaints or negative reviews. This will only irritate the customer further and make it look like you have something to hide.
“aggressive defensiveness and attempt to conceal these photos just brought media and public attention and resulted in the distribution of the photograph all over the internet…”
The only exception to this rule is if the angry customer uses profane language that will offend other customers. While you should still reach out to the irate customer, offensive or violent language should be removed if you have the means. If the offensive language is on a customer’s social media account and not posted to your own, then let that go. In most cases, asking a customer to take something down from their own personal account just draws more attention to it (like we learned from Barbara) when most likely the account would otherwise not have many views.
Don’t Take Conversations Offline Too Soon
At a certain point, it’s best to move customer service conversations offline and onto email or phone correspondence. But too many companies try to do this right away as if addressing the issue or apologizing for a mistake is shameful. Don’t do this. If someone makes a complaint, it can even be beneficial for your brand if others see the effort your customer service puts into resolving the issue. When you do respond online, in public, you earn word of mouth. Thousands of more people see that you actually care about customers compared to when you address a customer via email or direct message. Plus, you save on all the people who now don’t need to call in (or write a similarly angry post) to find an answer to the same question. Of course for many issues, the customer may need to provide sensitive information that cannot live on social media, but only at that point is it necessary to move off. Otherwise, your excellent customer service should be visible for all to see.
Don’t Take It Personally
This is probably the most challenging aspect for handling attacks on social media. When dealing with negative comments, remember that customers aren‘t angry with you as an individual. They’re angry about the situation they’re in. That’s why you should never take these responses personally or respond to the customer in a negative manner. The absolute worst thing you could do is make matters worse and escalate the situation.
At Kathy Kuo Home, we like to consider ourselves experts in customer service. And the reality is that whoever is in charge of managing your social media must be just as adept in customer service as a customer service representative. For more tips on how to receive the best customer service, read this article we posted a little while back. Let us know what you think in the comment section below!