Clasping a shiny new set of Iron Man headphones in one hand and a bag of Dove chocolate in the other, I stopped a very kind sales associate in the Target electronics department and asked if he could point me in the direction of the headphone extenders. After searching multiple aisles, he admitted defeat and apologized profusely. I thanked him anyway, made my purchases, and headed over to Best Buy in search of my elusive cable.
I checked the obvious places it might be stocked, but after coming up empty handed, I attempted to locate a sales associate for help. There were plenty of blue shirted employees milling about, but it was impossible to catch anyone's eye - it was almost like they were avoiding me on purpose.
I laid in wait behind an end cap for about five minutes before springing into the path of an employee wandering by. After I asked where I might find headphone extenders, she waved vaguely to her left and said, "Probably in the headphones aisle." Before I could reply that I had already searched the aisle twice, she had walked off, ignoring my half sputtered response.
Needless to say, I left without headphone extenders. I thought briefly about notifying the company via Twitter, but after wading through numerous complaints where customers initially received a response from support, but never a resolution, I decided to let it go. I also made the choice never to shop at Best Buy again.
Target, however, will continue to have my complete devotion - and at least 20% of every paycheck.
Stop Avoiding the Problem
Here's the thing. If a customer were to walk up to you in the store and complain, you'd respond, right? Yet customers complaining on social media are largely ignored - about 70% according to a study from Maritz Research and Evolve24. This is seriously bad business.
Social media is no passing fad; it's a communication channel that more and more buyers are turning to. Customer experience management company, Market Force, points out:
"The emergence of social media has given consumers a whole new way to interact with the brands they love - and a forum to complain when brands disappoint. But what many companies have learned is just how powerful connecting one-on-one with customers can be when those consumers take the time to post."
In other words, if a customer makes the effort to contact you by means of social media, you better respond. Otherwise, you'll find yourself in the hot seat. There are three reasons why ignoring your customers on social media can backfire. Let's go through them, shall we?
1. Customers Loathe Being Ignored
When customers use social media to complain, it's usually because a company already failed to satisfy them through traditional customer service channels. They're also incredibly angry, so provoking them further through inaction is ill advised.
A study from Conversocial found that the way customers are treated on social media has a considerable effect on their feelings toward a company. In fact, if ignored by companies on social media sites:
45% would be angry
27.1% would stop doing business with the company completely
The Customer Experience Impact Report for Oracle had even more to say on the subject of ignoring customers:
50% of consumers give a brand only one week to respond to a question before they stop doing business with them
89% of consumers began doing business with a competitor following a poor customer experience
So there you have it. If you don't respond within a week, your customers are likely to switch to a competitor. By the way, don't even think of deleting a complaint - it will only snowball into something much worse.
2. Potential Customers Are Watching
When angry consumers turn to social media to vent, the whole world is watching - including current and potential customers. Conversocial found that 88% of customers are less likely to do business with a company that ignores complaints through social media.
It makes sense. Much like how I assumed Best Buy would fail to resolve my issue based on what I saw on Twitter - potential customers will weigh how you treat your buyers along with price and quality, and they're far more likely to pay extra for a better customer experience.
3. You Can Turn a Negative Into a Positive
Believe it or not, angry customers just want to be heard. Even if you can't solve their problem entirely, the fact that you're listening goes a long way. The Maritz study reported 83% of complainants who received a reply, liked or loved the fact that the company responded. The simple act of responding to the complaint was enough to help improve the customer's experience. Furthemore, Oracle found that 22% of consumers who received a response to their complaint ended up posting a positive comment about the company. How's that for turning lemons into lemonade?
How to Keep Your Finger on the Pulse
Anywhere your customers are talking, you need to be listening. Start by setting up a Google Alert to catch mentions of your company name - not only is it quick and easy, it's also free.
Assign a person (or team) the task of responding to any customer feedback received via social media - even the positive stuff. Give them the authority to decide what feedback is relevant and deserves a response, and to offer support until resolution. If you prefer not to offer full support via social media, redirect complainants by responding with other contact information, such as email or telephone number.
Whatever channel of communication you settle on, remember to do the following when dealing with complaints:
Listen. This is the perfect opportunity to improve several aspects of your business.
Don't argue or make excuses.
Acknowledge the customer's concerns and offer further steps.
Apologize and say thank you.
When you ignore consumer feedback on social media, you miss the opportunity to make positive improvements to your products and services, make a real connection with actual people, and most importantly, you lose customers entirely.
And I'm sure I don't have to tell you that without customers, you have no business at all.