Managing Negative Customer Perception through Social Media

“If you make customers unhappy in the physical world, they might each tell 6 friends. If you make customers unhappy on the Internet, they can each tell 6,000 friends” – Jeff Bezos, CEO, Amazon.com

When the power of perception and the potency of social media combine, companies have on their hands a formidable contender. Having to place and publicize one’s brand on such large platforms is daunting but dealing with the repercussions of one minor service lapse that leads to negative customer perception, can scare even the most powerful and reputed company. Before the arrival of social media, customers were not as forthcoming to either provide feedback or make a complaint. It was a time taking and energy sapping process which was better avoided. Not anymore. Through social media customers can and are making their views and perceptions, of products and services and the kind of customer service they receive, very visible and vocal. What sometimes makes matters worse is, that it is not just current customers who are expressing their views, even past customers who did not have a platform to air their views previously are coming back for vengeance. Managing negative customer perception on such large platforms is most definitely an uphill task. It is a given, that unless your customer service is at ecstatic levels for the customer, they most probably won’t bother talking about it. However, at the first sign of indifferent and sloppy customer service it is almost certain that this negative perception will find its way on the most visible platform. Probably not fair but customers drive this and all that a company must do is provide consistently the highest level of customer service to get rave reviews from customers.

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When customers get angry, what they believe is the truth and would speak about it wherever they can. Their perception is the reality. It is safest to not let perceptions become negative since managing these negative perceptions may not be easy or even possible. Immediate action must be taken towards managing negative customer perception and social media allows companies that platform. Your company’s efforts and commitment to keep its customers will also be visible to a large audience, enhancing the chance they may have to remedy the damage and salvage their reputation. The unrelenting reality is that public opinion, half lies or half truths about a company’s brand and customer service, become more unmanageable and difficult to manage as time lapses. It is wise to nip these issues as soon as they surface or better still to not let them happen at all.

Managing negative customer perception through social media is taxing and time consuming. The staff dealing with these situations must remain calm, courteous and stoic allowing customers to express what they perceive as reality. All company’s brands and offerings are now subject to the scrutiny and publicity of social media and it is up to the companies to keep the customers happy and manage negative feedback if they fail. If a company is able to do a great job at customer service recovery, they will be better able to manage these negative perceptions. In fact, on such a large platform, excellent service recovery has the potential to translate in to more business from other prospective customers. It’s a great opportunity to build customer base and also have more loyal customers.

Related Article: How call center agents use interactive guides instead of call scripts to provide training on Managing Negative Customer Perception?

For any feedback provided, especially negative, customers normally talk about how they felt rather than what the real issue was. Most often the feeling of being neglected or treated shabbily is stronger and becomes more real than the actual issue, which may have been quite miniscule in reality. When the negative perceptions begin to build up, companies must focus on the words and feelings the customer is expressing. Managing the negative ‘perception’ through timely intervention will help to retain the customer and also regain their trust. Consistent and sustained efforts towards retaining a customer over the social media platforms puts you in a happy situation where others want to do business with you. The sharp focus on addressing issues and managing negative customer perception will save your company from ill-repute and loss of business. Both – an irate customer’s spiteful words and your efforts to win them back – have the potential to become a large wave over social media. How you manage the customer’s negative reaction will determine whether the tide turns in your favour or not. Listening attentively to customers – the spoken word or the unspoken signs – will help you keep a better control on how you service your customers. Of course, despite best efforts, it is possible that customer perceptions turn negative and it is voiced on social media – you will need to manage it:

– Companies must take in to account the impact of not responding to negative comments. When you choose to ignore either one comment or a growing voice of dissension, you not only run the risk of damaging your reputation for good but also miss out on a large scale opportunity to enhance your company’s business. Responding with and reaching out to customers with well worded communications does not only put to rest the negative perceptions but also creates new positive ones. Customers that vent their feelings just need to know that you care and are willing to go the extra mile to retain their business. They will understand an error but will never forgive if you fail to recover from that error. Social media as of now the largest and most visible platform to showcase your customer service and retention strategy prowess. The 2011 Retail Consumer Report stated that customers who received a response after posting negative feedback, 33% replied with a positive review, and 34% deleted the original negative review. It pays to manage negative customer perception through social media and any other channel.

– When a customer chooses social media to express displeasure over service received, the first thing that must be done is to respond directly to the customer via the same channel. The customer expects you to take notice. Ask the customer to tell you what caused the displeasure and admit to the service lapse. Keep the customer engaged and have a focused team to address all the concerns and remarks the customer voices. Clearly state what you can do immediately to set things right and what you are committed to doing in the future to keep them happy. If there is more than one issue that the customer wants addressed, prioritize and address the one that has caused the maximum impact or can cause more damage if left unattended. As you go about fixing the problem in a systematic and customer focused manner, you will also be changing the perception about your company before a countless number of unknown but prospective customers. The customer with the problem will also make their appreciation known to all over the same visible channel.

– Use the customer’s insights and negative feedback to your advantage. Ask the customer to tell you what they would like to see happen more or what should be done away with. This gives the customer the impression of being in control and they would be more than willing to offer solutions and feedback. Having these conversations on social media, allows others to view them simultaneously and maybe provide inputs if they have had similar problems. This is a proactive way of getting customer feedback before it turns negative. Using this approach conveys to a large audience that your company is receptive, flexible and open to change. You would have a larger number of engaged and satisfied customers without even trying too hard.

– After you have responded and resolved the customer’s complaint, surprise them with a bonus offering or a heavy discount on your next launch. When you go all out to please your customer you can be sure that they will use the wider platforms to talk well of your company and praise your brand and customer service. It is easier now to have brand ambassadors who are ready to stand by you and endorse your brand over any medium possible. The more positive sentiments you can garner, the easier it would be for managing negative customer perception in the future, should such an opportunity arise.

– Another great forward thinking way to exhibit your company’s focus on providing great customer service would be to have a detailed and exhaustive troubleshooting guide replete with well explained diagrams, or troubleshooting interactive videos or having a member of the customer service team to have a one to one troubleshooting session with the customer.

Your brand may be everything for you but how the customer perceives your company’s service and brand is the only reality. It is your responsibility to ensure that you do everything in your power to keep your customers happy. If an inadvertent error does cause some concern, move in immediately to calm the customer and show them your commitment to keep them with you. It is in your best interest to manage negative customer perception.

“The customer’s perception is your reality” – Kate Zabriskie

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