When a customer leaves negative feedback for your company online, it can feel like a real blow to your brand. Not only have they asserted an issue with your service, but their complaint is posted on the web for anyone to see. What if other customers see it and you lose business? Do you just ignore the complaint? Delete it?
Though the latter options might be tempting, there’s really no need to panic. Whilst online complaints may seem like a detriment to your company at first, they can actually be a great opportunity to demonstrate your dedication to listening to customers and meeting their needs. One study found that 70% of customers said they were likely to spend more with a company that provided them excellent customer service - which means you can’t afford to waste your chance to impress them. You need a strong response strategy - here are six tips to help you.
1) Apologise, apologise, apologise
Sometimes it’s tempting to try and protect your brand’s reputation by arguing with a customer or ignoring their issue - but the best thing you can do is put your pride aside and own up to any missteps on your part. Customers who complain online are typically looking for an acknowledgment of their problem. The Carey School of Business found that 37% of customers are satisfied with service recovery when they are offered something of monetary value (e.g., a refund or credit), but when the business adds an apology on top of the compensation, satisfaction doubles to 74%.
2) Respond and rectify in a timely fashion
One thing that can really frustrate a customer further and permanently turn them away from your company is a delayed response-rate. Just take a look at this thread on Dominos UK’s Twitter, in which one customer’s complaint was continually deferred, rendering it too late to rectify the initial issue and leading to a massive escalation of the problem. To make matters worse, they still tell him to DM them even after he complains about the ineffective response rate.
What counts as ‘timely’ can vary by customer - one study found that 36% of customers would expect an email response within six hours, whilst 21% would consider 24 hours a reasonable benchmark - so certainly aim to respond within one day. Social media platforms, however, can often be considered more ‘immediate’ points of contact than email support lines, so companies should aim to keep response times to a few hours here.
3) Take the conversation to a private space
Often when replying to negative comments on social media, other customers can feel prompted to join the conversation and add additional complaints or comments. This can complicate the discussion and make it much more difficult to resolve all the queries being directed at you at once.
Because of this, it’s a good idea to move the conversation to a private space. This can be done by providing a link for the customer to access your live chat or customer service email, or by asking them to DM (direct message) you so that you can follow-up on their issue.
This way, your customer will feel valued as you engage directly with them and allow them to expand on their problem, and you can avoid dealing with any complications in the public eye.
4) Have outlined responses ready
You can speed up your response times by making a document dedicated to your most frequent customer concerns, and outline what your response will be to each. These outlines shouldn’t be inflexible scripts, as you don’t want your response to sound robotic and unengaged, but they should be templates for you to fill in the gaps and indicators of what solutions you can offer.
With a comprehensive outline of customer issues, you’ll be able to offer responses much faster, which is effective for both you and the customer, and ensures you won’t feel overwhelmed or unprepared when you have to deal with a complaint.
5) Personalise your response
In a survey conducted by Genesy a few years ago, they discovered that the top thing customers wanted by far out of their service experiences was “better human service.” Customers want to feel cared about and listened to, and they don’t want to be directed to insincere automated replies.
It is vital, then, that you adapt your outlines to make sure your responses are engaged. The best ways to do this are to greet people using their name and pay close attention to all the details they’ve provided about the issue. Showing empathy goes a long way too. It can also help to sign off your responses with the name of the staff member tackling the issue.
Check out this response to a query on Amazon’s Facebook page, which remains personalised, empathetic, and engaged with the details of the problem throughout. This approach is sure to represent you as a much more helpful brand to your audience.
6) Don’t hide from a problem, go the extra mile to solve it instead
In October 2016, you might remember the scandal Samsung went through when a number of its Galaxy Note 7 phones were reported to have overheated, caught fire, or exploded. The brand had to recall the model and eventually stop production of it altogether, and it seemed like it would cause permanent damage to their brand.
Instead of drawing a line under the problem and trying to quietly move on, however, the phone company decided to use it as an opportunity to demonstrate that they learn from their mistakes and are committed to improving their customer experience.
The South Korean company took out a full-page advert in newspapers to apologise to users for the crisis and followed up with a series of more ads showing their engineers explaining the safety and quality tests their phones go through before a launch. They also released results of the investigation into the issues and announced plans to introduce more multi-layer safety measures - maximising transparency and putting customer worries first.
Their commitment here seems to have been successful and this year Samsung was able to enjoy a record 72% surge in profits to £9.3 billion, and a brand value rise of 23% according to Kantar Millward Brown’s 2017 BrandZ ranking. Who doesn’t love a comeback kid?
Overall, the most important thing to remember is to put your customer first. Think about how frustrated you’d be in their position, empathise, and do everything in your power to remedy the situation quickly. On average, loyal customers are worth up to ten times as much of their initial purchase, so keeping them happy is vital.