Turn social complaints into good PR!

Abs Gandhi – Account Executive at Spreckley

Traditionally, when customers had a complaint, they would usually express their frustrations on the company hotline, send an angry email, or in the most old fashioned of ways – write a letter. Commonly, many customers were left further irate by the lack of a [satisfactory] response or acknowledgement of the complaint.

However, in the evolving digital landscape, the introduction of social media has revolutionised the way in which complaints are handled and viewed. Complaints are no longer limited to the disgruntled individual but are instantly accessible to anyone with an internet connection.

Failure for organisations to stay on top of social networks to effectively react and solve customer queries can cause issues to spiral out of control including damage to brand reputation, losing social following, and possible negative media coverage.

So how can organisations prevent social customer complaints from getting out of hand?

Speed is of the essence

Mitigate the escalation of customer complaints to your organisation by responding quickly and efficiently. Increase the speed of your replies by implementing a social strategy that identifies various complaints scenarios and the best ways to answer them. As social media provides an open platform for conversation, delays in responding to a complaint or providing an unsatisfactory response can create a wider window of opportunity for others to comment, potentially exasperating the problem for your organisation.

A study of social users by Fanhub supports the requirement for organisations to engage with its customers and provide prompt replies. 60 per cent of users interact with brand channels, with one in four people surveyed expecting a response to a complaint within an hour, and a further 66% of social media users expecting a same-day response.

Social media should be checked as often as emails

With the plethora of social platforms on offer and with an audience stretching every part of the world, it is important to check your social platforms regularly. Monitoring and double-checking each platform guarantees that your organisation is aware of any potential problems, even if it’s an error made from within your own company. One such example springs to mind.

After receiving a customer complaint (one of many) on its Twitter account, US Airways accidentally replied with a pornographic image, which was left there for over an hour before being removed. A lack of awareness and having someone readily available to monitor the social platforms evidentially cost them multiple customers. Since merging with American Airlines, the account has since shut down…maybe for the best!

Customer retention

Flip complaints on its head and turn them into good PR! When receiving a complaint, it is vital for your organisation to retain customers by incentivising or reassuring they make either repeat purchases, maintain following of your social networks, or sustain engagement with your content. By making your replies personal either by referring to them directly in the posts or shaping your response based on what they’ve said, you can increase customer retention rates.

A great example of this comes from Pret. Recently, a friend of mine purchased a salmon sandwich from the popular food chain, only to have his dining pleasure ruined by three small fish bones. In response, he posted a picture of the bones with a tweet directed at Pret, which had the potential to cause further customers to turn their backs on the company. Pret provided a swift response by replying to his tweet and offered a consolation with an apology and a gift voucher for more than the actual value of the sandwich itself!

Social media has increased the opportunity for customers to interact with brands. The transference of complaints from traditional to digital methods have streamlined the process for the customer, yet have required organisations to invest significant time and efforts in preventing bad PR. Organisations however, can capitalise on customer complaints and achieve good PR through a readiness and efficiency to solve the problem before it escalates; showcasing your organisation’s reliability in providing for your customers!