Dealing with Customer Ire via Social Media

“The only way to put out a social-media fire is with social-media water.” Ramon DeLeon

Every business needs customers but no business wants angry ones – even a single angry customer can wreak havoc in the company. Angry customers want everyone to know the poor experiences they have had with a company and unfortunately, this is when social media can become a potential bomb. Imagine having to deal with customer ire via social media – the reputation a company may have built and the trust it would have garnered can instantly come crashing down. Social media is a great tool for a company to promote business, raise awareness, build its brand, and network – but when a company faces customer ire via social media, it could prove extremely unnerving. The good news however, is that dealing with customer ire via social media, is possible and actually not that hard.

Of course, the first step to dealing with customer ire via social media is for companies to accept that customer complaints over social media need addressing. A research revealed that at least 86% people said that their buying decisions were influenced by the reviews about a company. Hence, negative comments could block out business from this large section of potential customers. Dealing with customer ire via social media is essential and even more critical is the manner in which a company responds. It is critical that these complaints are used as opportunities rather than taking them personally. Those that take customer comments personally would have the tendency to fire off angry retorts or salvos and or delete the messages. This is a sure-shot way to make customers angrier and face even more customer ire via social media – and may be on more than one platform.

We are not saying that there are some bad customers – the ones that make unreasonable and humongous demands and pester a company for small issues – they exist. In addition, they threaten with extreme consequences – including making the issue ‘public’ via social media – if a company fails to comply with their unreasonableness. They are customers from hell and it is important that companies identify and root out such customers before they undo every effort and all the hard work your company would have put in. We know that the success and growth of a company depends on its customers and customers remain with a company when it is able to deliver top class service. However, it is also the responsibility of the company to do away with obstacles and hindrances, that could potentially stunt its growth or be the cause of its downfall.

There are a number of ways a company can help its growth and remove obstacles. It would be essential to provide top class service to customers through excellent service employees, updated CRM software, and other such customer-centric approaches. In addition, to sustain growth a company must also root out energy sapping customers, especially those who hardly provide any business but are in the association only for the benefits they receive from the company. This would allow the company to focus on happy and profitable customers and contribute to its own growth.

Companies can no longer pretend about social media and its effects. Customers expect companies to be present and active on every channel where they operate – all platforms of social media included. In the current business environment, not complying with customer demands could prove detrimental and if a company faces customer ire via social media, their problems could get compounded. There is no excuse for companies now to not harness the power of social media and create a strong and unified network within the company, that would be equipped and proficient in handling every customer situation including customer ire via social media. Of course, we do not mean to imply that every complaint and negative comment from customers is justified.

When dealing with customer ire via social media, a company must first swiftly understand whether the complaint / comment is valid and has a basis. The next swift action to take is to respond to the comment and the most appropriate response would be possible only post understanding whether the complaint is genuine or is simply the customer’s way of spewing venom and trying to bring the company down. A company must first seek to understand the customer and the actions, before acting. It is important to act swiftly but not without all the facts and complete understanding of what could have led to the comment from the customer. Handling customer ire via social media requires a completely different and well-planned strategy – responding with half-baked comments would only serve to validate the customer’s negative comments.

Rather than keeping the ‘ugly conversation’ on a visible platform, a company must try to deal with customer ire out of the public view – that is off social media. It would be better to connect with the customer directly, either via the phone or in person, to sort out the matter, especially if the complaint is genuine. It is best to avoid dealing with customer ire via social media – poor responses could only turn the tide against you and create a negative image of the company. It is completely unacceptable under any circumstance to delete responses, ignore them, or respond angrily to them. This not only increases the customer’s ire, it also lends a negative image to your company, and people could believe all of the nasty comments written about your company. It would be best to try to communicate with the customer via a channel that is not visible to all. Of course, once the problem is sorted out, your company could publish the resolution and publicly thank the customer for their understanding.

Dealing with customer ire via social media or for that matter in any form, is never easy for a company. However, it is important that the tactics used for social media handling are more efficient, swift, and show genuine interest in the customer. It is important that when dealing with customer ire via social media, that the company empathizes with the customer, even if it is not the company’s fault. Many customers usually fire off complaints in the heat of the moment – all they really want is to be heard and get the confidence that the company will sort out the problem. It is essential to apologize genuinely in order to calm the irate customer.

When dealing with customer ire via social media, ensure that you never place blame but rather accept responsibility even if it is not at fault. The fact that your company accepts responsibility makes it instantly likeable and trustworthy. The next step would be to provide an interim solution, with a promise and timeline for a complete and permanent solution. It is imperative to convey the solution such that the customer is aware of the steps you would be taking to resolve their problem. The trail of the conversation would serve as a ready reference not just for the customer and your company, but all those who would be taking an interest in the situation. These could be potential customers, investors, competitors, and other such people who could benefit from the outcome.

Dealing with customer ire via social media and responding appropriately is critical for any business. The response you publish must show passion, genuine concern, and concerted effort – this would shadow the complaint and could serve to appease the customer to a large extent. Dealing with customer ire via social media is essential irrespective of the size of your company – the way your company deals with such company speaks volumes about your company and is worth more than any advertising or promotions.

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