Managing your online relationships isn’t always easy, but when it comes to your brand’s reputation, there are some steps you can take to protect it and turn unhappy customers into loyal fans
As you or your brand becomes more engaged on the social channels, it is inevitable that you will see brand questions and comments, some of them negative. Many brands are still resistant to joining and actively participating in the social sphere for this reason alone. Even if you or your brand is not present, the conversation about your brand is still going on. Isn’t it better to find out what people are saying and, if it is negative, offer solutions?
Geoffrey Gitomer, best selling author and sales guru even wrote a book titled Customer Satisfaction is Worthless, Customer Loyalty is Priceless. I know in my own experiences that using the tenets of relationship marketing and generating and achieving that all important customer loyalty is often just simply about responding when your customer is unhappy. Many times your clients just want to know that you heard them and that you acknowledge there may be a problem and will try and fix it. I’m sure at this point you realize that everything posted on line lives forever, so you MUST have a plan of action on how to deal with any negative postings. Keeping in mind, of course, the most important tenet of relationship marketing and customer service: The customer is always right!
Over the years I have witnessed many brands who have not planned for this type of communication disaster so I always recommend that a communication plan be put in place. At the very least, consider the possibility that someone someday may not like you or your product. This way you will be prepared. For larger brands, it’s imperative to decide these strategies. In my past life as a consultant I had an initial “on boarding” meeting with one of my clients, a major laundry detergent brand. In the meeting I asked what would happen if someone posted that their laundry detergent burned a whole in their clothes – or worse, they accuse the brand of causing personal injury? That was something they hadn’t considered. So we took the time to put in place a plan that took into account the innocuous complaint or question; i.e., the coupons didn’t print, can they use the detergent on all kinds of clothes, etc., all the way to the worst case – someone was injured.
Here is the plan we drafted:
- We conducted a listening campaign for the first month that included more closely monitoring the social channels to determine what, if any, consistent complaints or questions arose.
- Then we compiled a document that included responses to the common questions and complaints. Both Twitter and Facebook responses were drafted – approximately 20-30 for each that way their legal department could review and approve them but customers would get a response more quickly and the responses did not look “canned.” We also performed the same exercise for other types of posts, including compliments. This way, we had all communications covered and we were able to engage more quickly.
Example for complaint: We’re sorry that you’re having trouble, [FAN NAME]. Please contact customer service at [800# or email] so that we can take care of this for you ASAP.
Example for compliment: Thank you [FAN NAME]. It always makes us feel good if we can help make life a little easier for our friends.
- We decided which types of comments and questions needed to be routed to different departments. For example, if someone said that their product caused injury, those comments would be routed to the legal department for review and response.
- There are several online tools that help with customer service (Facebook, in particular); but as the page grew, we contracted with Parature, a Facebook client services tool that routes consumer questions and complaints to individuals within an organization. This allowed the brand to keep a better handle on the types of comments and also to be sure they were routed to the correct person or department more quickly. Parature uses keywords set up by the brand to determine which posts get routed to which department. Also, Parature will automatically remove or “hide” posts that include profanity or include inappropriate content.
- Lastly, the team decided specifically who would be responsible for responding to these issues. It was clear that if we did not have someone experienced or had a plan in place, things could go bad quickly; so we drafted a social media policy for distribution to all of the departments. In the case of Facebook, the new Timeline roll out will allow a team member to respond directly to a fan that sends the brand a message. This is a very positive enhancement and will be a great addition to your Facebook relationship marketing strategy. However, you still need to decide who will be responsible for these communications and what the acceptable responses are.
There is no doubt that it will happen eventually to you or your brand. Someone will post negative comments, but being prepared is the key. If your brand is under attack, your first reaction may be to defend it. This can make a bad situation worse. In the case of other brands I’ve worked with, this has happened with disastrous results. You have to resign yourself that you cannot please everyone but using a few of these tips your relationships can be enhanced, you can save a customer and, perhaps turn a negative experience into a positive long term raving fan for your brand.