The incredible speed and fluidity of social media is a marvel of our digital age.
Social media is an unmatched mode of direct connection with your audience, but it also opens up a new world of crisis management where one complaint can quickly gain momentum, putting your brand's reputation (and potentially, share price) at risk.
Luckily, the social customer care evolution is here and top brands are recognizing that social should be your first responder. And with the AMA naming 2017 the year of customer experience, the value of social customer care has only become more self-evident.
In order to build lasting trust amongst your customers base, setting the stage for the creation of loyal brand advocates, it's essential to have a framework for responding to negative feedback on social, before it snowballs into a larger fiasco.
Here are five key social customer care tips which are applicable to every social marketer, no matter your industry.
1. Listen Carefully
Stopping a problem in its tracks (and building lasting relationships) starts with social listening.
Unfortunately, an angry customer won't always speak directly to you - to ensure you don't miss important feedback, you need to track all mentions of your brand, branded hashtags, and branded URLs shared on social - whether they include an @ mention or not.
2. Remember That Response Time Matters
When establishing your target response times, know that now, more than ever, speed matters.
Common SLAs can vary from mere minutes to hours, depending on a variety of factors including your industry and your team, and are likely to fluctuate based on peak times, specific events or campaigns. But one thing is consistent across the board: rapid replies are increasingly becoming the expectation.
In fact, 42% of customers who complain on social expect a response within 60 minutes. And with sensitive issues, like an emotionally charged complaint, a slow response can leave a customer feeling ignored and stoke the flames of further discontent.
Negative sentiment can soar, and multiply - in some cases, circulating on social until it reaches media outlets - when a brand's response is seen as comparatively too slow.
3. Be Human, Be Transparent, And Never Go Negative
Brands can take the control of the situation by responding in a helpful and genuine manner. Never respond negatively or defensively.
Avoid canned responses and strive to establish a human connection.
Ensure your customer feels listened to, and don't be afraid to apologize for any inconvenience or a less-than-stellar experience to help diffuse a negative situation.
4. Respond Publicly Before Moving to a Private Conversation
When responding to a complaint on social, always reply publicly before moving the conversation into a private message.
The days of purely 1:1 communication are behind us - on social, a brand may be replying to a comment directed solely at your brand, yet this exchange is still taking place in the public eye.
Responding publicly is essential to showcasing your brand as transparent, attentive, and helpful. Only after this first step should you move the conversation into a private message in order to provide a solution with greater detail, or to ask for sensitive information, like an account number or identifying details, essential to solving the customer's problem.
Negative feedback on social can also represent the chance to turn unhappy customers into brand advocates and provide unique opportunities to surprise and delight.
5. Know When to Engage - and When Not To
Responding to social posts - both compliments and complaints - can strengthen a brand's relationship with its customer base, but comments that veer into trolling territory (comments that are racist, sexist, or otherwise aggressively derogatory) are often better left untouched.
Be transparent with your audience by including a statement of what violates your online community terms in your bio or 'About me' section, and that you reserve the right to remove any postings of a vulgar, discriminatory, or inappropriate nature.
One caveat: be wary of deleting comments. This can incite more anger, and additional comments are likely to increase - both in number and in vitriol.
If a comment is derogatory, you can report it and on some networks, like Facebook, you can hide the comment from the public. This feature lets the comment remain visible to the user who posted it, as well as to the original poster's friends, which lessens the potential for additional conflict when removing a comment from the public eye.
Investing in Customer Experience Starts with Listening
There's no better way to understand what your customers need and want than via their own feedback. A negative comment presents an opportunity to show your brand's dedication to resolving any issues with transparency and empathy.
Use the five steps above to deliver service necessary for a satisfied fanbase - and to create a brand worthy of customer loyalty.