Opinion

Steering the middle course on social media

06 September 2016

Sufiyan Kala
Sufiyan Kala

For businesses, platforms such as Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook have become essential components of their customer service and marketing strategies. But how can businesses make the most of social media, especially when it is being used by disgruntled customers to lodge complaints? Here Sufiyan Kala who heads up the social department at Love Energy Savings brings you some top tips to follow from some of the firm's customers

According to research undertaken by The Social Habit, 42% of people who make a customer complaint via social media expect a response within an hour. A further 32% demand direct action in as little as 30 minutes.

With customers becoming so demanding, smaller businesses in particular are really feeling the pressure. Kevin Mullaney, head of digital at Flagship Consulting says: “While a renowned brand with thousands of employees and a designated social media team working around the clock can easily deal with customer queries and complaints, companies with far more modest resources aren’t so well equipped." 

Be quick – very, very quick

Most consumers expect a rapid service 24/7. Brands should, and customers expect them, to respond within one hour of a complaint being left on social media. This doesn’t need to be the full answer to their question but an acknowledgement of the comment and when the customer can expect a follow up. Customers expect this level of response on weekends too so if your social media teams aren’t available 24/7, then make sure to specify when they are active in the profile’s bio. 

Show empathy and interpret those emojis

With a 140-character limit and no sarcasm filter to speak of, it can be really hard to gauge the sentiment of some tweets.

Responding to a sarcastic tweet in a serious manner, or conversely offering a jovial response to a serious grievance can be embarrassing and potentially damaging.

Social customer service is riddled with pitfalls because not only do you have to respond quickly and accurately to resolve an issue in public, but you need to consider a customer’s emotional state and tone which could be very tricky in short, emoji-riddled social posts.

Some situations require a friendly, empathetic response with an honest admission of mistakes, while others need to be much more formal and procedural. In some instances, the complaint may be so severe that 140 characters or a short response won’t cut it and you will need to take the conversation offline and away from public view to resolve an issue to satisfaction and any misstep or a lack of emotional intelligence can lead to prolonged negative sentiment on social.

Don’t try to hide negative responses 

No brand wants to receive negative feedback in a public forum, but the last thing you should do is delete complaints from your timeline (unless they are offensive, of course).

You can read more about Twitter’s offensive comment guidelines here.

Removing genuine complaints will only serve to anger the person who has left them, potentially escalating the situation and making it much worse than it would have been if you’d simply held your hands up, accepted responsibility and offered a solution.

Having negative reviews shows that you are real. Mistakes happen– it’s how you deal with them that matters. A report by Reevoo showed that customers spend more than five times as long on a site that has bad (but trustworthy and genuine) reviews. They also convert nearly 85% more often.  

Direct upset customers away from an open forum 

Social media is the first touch point for many disgruntled consumers, as they know that the company in question must respond.

However, businesses need to be able to direct these people to their own live chat facilities so that they can get to the bottom of the problem, offering a greater level of personalisation in the process.

Marina Kalika, senior director of product marketing at TouchCommerce says: “If a [person] has not received a delivery and has taken to Twitter to express their frustrations, the brand is able to contact the customer to reassure them via social media, and offer them the chance to seamlessly transition the conversation to their online live chat function on their website. By doing so, it takes the customer from an open forum, to a private conversation whereby a customer service representative can provide the answers they need and deliver one-to-one personalised support.”

Hire a compliance officer who focuses on brand reputation

Having a designated compliance officer in place can help to ensure that all customer feedback is treated in the appropriate manner. We have policies whereby I’ll alert the head of our pre-live team, who will liaise with our compliance officer. The reason our compliance officer gets involved is because as a business we want to ensure every customer’s feedback (good or bad) is given the same amount of time in terms of investigation, liaison and, obviously, resolution. And this helps to build trust in the brand.

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