I’m going to guess that if you wanted to track down the origin of consumer complaints, you would end up somewhere around the very first time humans got together to trade goods and services.
Being unhappy with a transaction is a universal feeling – and was probably just as frustrating thousands of years ago as it is today! We’ve all been there at one time or another; all that’s changed is how we go about reporting our dissatisfaction.
Over the years, we’ve tried mail. We’ve tried the telephone. We’ve tried email.
But more and more these days, consumers are turning to social media as a favored route for grumbling about products or services that didn’t measure up to their expectations.
The only question is whether anyone on the receiving end of those social media complaints is paying attention – and too often they aren’t!
Perhaps that’s why I was so impressed by a recent news item that said CarMax employs a seven-member social-care team that responds to customer concerns, questions and complaints, usually in an hour or less.
That sounds like a pretty good-sized team, until you keep reading in the article and learn that the team engages with about 4,000 to 6,000 people each month!
That’s a lot of customers or potential customers who take to Facebook, Twitter or other platforms to communicate with CarMax about their experiences, both good and bad.
But it’s also just one more example of what our social media strategists at EMSI have been telling me for quite some time now. Social media platforms have become a major player in the way customers interact with businesses, and if you aren’t already participating in that interaction it’s high time you did.
Because as I’ve said in the past, there’s a better than even chance that your customers and potential customers are already on social media talking about you, your book, your business or your brand. You might as well join the conversation.
The article I saw that mentioned the CarMax team happened to be giving advice to consumers about how to complain effectively on social media. But as I read it, I thought it might be a good idea to sort of flip that advice around. Instead of looking at how consumers can best lodge their grievances on social media, those of us on the other end need to examine how we can best respond.
Because each complaint posted in the public square of social media is bad publicity for you and your brand. And every interaction you have with those complainers is an opportunity to transform that bad publicity into good publicity and keep your brand’s reputation solid.
With that in mind, here are a few ways you can make social media function well as a modern-day complaint department:
- Stay vigilant. You want to make sure you or someone representing your company is taking responsibility for staying on top of social media. You don’t want complaints or questions to just sit there on Facebook, Twitter or another platform with no evidence that the account is active or you care about it. You might not be able to match CarMax’s one-hour response time, but social media comments shouldn’t go unanswered for days, weeks or months on end. And remember, this isn’t just about solving problems. Some customers might praise you! You’ll want to thank them for their kind words.
- Show that you understand why the person is unhappy. Don’t let yourself sound defensive. Regardless of who’s right or wrong, you want to take an understanding and caring point of view. The customer or client who’s complaining might be angry and venting, but you need to stay calm and professional, at least with your posts. The world is watching – or has the potential to watch anyway – so you’ll want to represent your brand well.
- Resolve the issue. Or at least make an honest effort to. When it comes to social media, if you can please an irritated customer you’ve done more than make one person happy. Other people checking in will see that you react quickly when things go wrong, which will give them more faith that you are someone worth doing business with.
These days, everyone would agree that no matter what it is you’re selling, you need to have a social media presence. And, if you handle things properly, your social media interactions become a powerful way to show other potential customers that you’re willing to stand behind your products or service. It demonstrates your company’s integrity and professionalism for all to see.
I have no gripe with that!
P.S. If you need professional help with your social media efforts, give us a call at 727-443-7115 ext. 215 or click here to get started with your Free Media Analysis!
Marsha Friedman launched EMS Incorporated in 1990. Her firm represents corporations and experts in a wide array of fields such as business, health, food, lifestyle, politics, finance, law, sports and entertainment. She consults individuals and businesses on a daily basis and is frequently asked to speak at conferences about how to harness the power of publicity.