Sales & Marketing

How to solve customer complaints through various social media platforms

17 min read

17 December 2014

From Pinterest to Twitter and review websites such as Yelp, here's a quick guide to solving customer complaints.

Twitter

Why is Twitter so important? Because when a customer is not happy, they instantly grab a phone and send a 140 character complaint letter into the internet for all to see. And with a Simply Measured study showing that 99 per cent of brands are on Twitter, businesses need to do whatever they can to make sure their reputation stays intact.

But here are three companies you could learn from.

Of course, JetBlue hits the top of the list. The fact that they are constantly acknowledged as being one of the best companies on Twitter means they’ve definitely got something going for them, and we’re not talking about the pictures or the conversation in general. No, it’s their responsiveness.

The airline industry can get some hefty complaints, what, with all those delays and vocal passengers. So @JetBlue respond as quickly as possible to help calm down frustrated customers.

But, unlike most of their competitors, JetBlue is known to be extremely quick when it comes to answering messages, whether they come from a private DM or the more public @.

Indeed, remember that when it comes to Twitter, consumers expect quick responses to be the norm, so try to deliver.

Most large firms have a dedicated social media team on site. 

And what about having a distinctive customer service handle? This not only makes it easier for you to find the complaints before they fuel a Twitter storm, but also gives consumers a direct outlet area.

This will allow you to respond that much quicker, rather than weeding through all the tweets on your account.

Just take a look at @NikeSupport. The amazing thing is how well their customer service is done considering how massive the company is. While Nike does have separate accounts for various things, @NikeSupport only focusses on one thing: customer support.

And, perhaps unsurprisingly, they tweet a lot more than the actual Nike handle itself.

This just comes to show that you need to make it easy for customers to find you. Sometimes, being simple is the best option rather than over-complicating things.

“The whole point of social media is being there at the time of crisis,” said Ana Roca Castro, who runs consulting group Premier Social Media. “everything is immediate. You can’t just do a press release and that’s the official opinion of the company. If you don’t have someone who is trained or with a clear policy, the company will chicken out. They don’t want to show a public face and risk a lawsuit.”

Such a crisis social media strategy was seen in 2010 when Graco had to recall 1.5m strollers due to concerns about uncovered hinges,which caused seven severe injuries to toddler’s fingers.

But it seems Graco hit all the right notes. With a plan in place, they were already set to answer messages as soon as the announcement was made. Their twitter feed was filled with dates and times for distribution stroller-repair kits and made sure to answer all questions, even when it came to mothers asking whether their strollers would be part of the recall.

In particular, it was noted and appreciated by mothers that they were so active and ready on Twitter because “it’s definitely easier than getting on the phone and calling a number when you have kids running around and making noise in the background,” says Kate Marshland of ShoppingMama.com.

They obviously thought of who their target audience was and how they could make it easier for them.

However, those not involved in the recall saw how much of an effort the company was making and started tweeting about it. Remember, everything is public, so when you go all the way for your customers, everyone sees it. So make sure you keep the discussion open at all times!

Reviews

Whatever you might think of them, the power of online reviews cannot be ignored. Whether you’re a small e-tailer, an online giant, or a global blue-chip – online reviews have an impact.

But, it’s best to keep a customer is king approach. Much like any other site, they will write a glowing comment or a complaint, and, you also get leeway to respond. This can often lead to a better review on your site, as well as a happy customer.

However, never start an argument. All anyone will ever remember is that you were being offensive.

This is best explained by Jeff Diamond of Oakland’s Farmstead Cheeses and Wines. He explains that “the critic is actually doing you a favour. They’re helping you learn to be a better company.”

Here’s a video of his below recounting some of the conversations he had with reviewers.

Another example of a review done right is from Mother Bear’s Pizza.

A client gave the company a three star review, stating: “I’m not quite sure what the hype behind Mother Bear’s is. There’s a good amount of toppings on the pizza and the ingredients are high quality. But there was nothing really outstanding.

As is seen by the image, the general manager makes it all the more personal by indicating that he read the review.

Never send a template message to customers when a tricky customer comes through, because when they realise that you’ve done just that it never looks good. Besides, that just makes you a Twitter storm target!

More importantly, he apologises. The customer is always right… even when they’re not.

It’s a short and sweet response, which doesn’t sound defensive whatsoever and even includes the customer in providing more advice to help your company.

Just don’t take as long as he did to respond – a month.

When it comes to review platforms, such as Yelp or Trip Advisor, although someone can give you a great rating, they can often scatter a few negative comments in-between.

Of course, if you gained a five star rating you could just leave it at that, but always take the time to comment to even the smallest negative statement.

This was the case for iTan Sun Spray Spa. A reviewer started off by saying: “I used to be a loyal customer to the iTan in Oceanside and got screwed over by an iTan ‘manager’. I was sad because I loved the beds, atmosphere and staff.”

It turns out that the reviewer “sucked it up” and walked into a different branch ”after [moving] to PB” as the other salons didn’t offer the same treatment. A glowing review was left: “The staff is fantastic! The place is always clean and the beds are awesome! Thanks iTan, way to show customer service!”

When iTan responded, they made sure to point out the positives in the review again.

Facebook

Businesses need to realises what customers expect on different social channels. And, much like LinkedIn, Facebook is much more private than Twitter. After all, the premise is that you only add those who are friends, family and close colleagues. In other words, it’s a complied list of everyone you trust who can see exactly what it is you’re doing and liking.

In this case, responding to negative reviews is essential. The reason for this is because most people become friends because they share common interests – the chances of friends ‘sharing’ or ‘liking’ your business page are high. In other words, as a business, when you connect to a single person, you have the potential to be shared with their closest friends and relatives – a massive network based on trust.

So even if a response isn’t posted in a public domain, what you do and how you respond will undoubtedly travel far. But here’s the clincher: more often than not, customers prefer private messages on this platform.

And, in a sense, this will actually give you more options in which to address their complaints. This could be anything from a direct phone number or email, or even a discount voucher code.

Doing this online could lead to a few problems.

Of course, another way to have someone’s complaints answered is by having your community, aka loyal customer base, answer for you. This does, however, take into account that you’ve worked hard on your customer service and upheld your reputation.

If you put a lot of patience into your work and offer a great product or service, then after a time, especially on Facebook, your consumers will start to engage with each other about their experiences.

Essentially, they’ll start becoming more active on your page by answering question, offering support and generally assisting each other.

Note, again, that this only really tends to happen when you’ve supported your community consistently.

This can be seen by the Pampered Chef’s community. Someone poses a question about a possible faulty product and before the company even has time to respond, the community has jumped right in to help.

And, whatever you do, don’t delete posts!

In 2013, Starbucks India did just that and learnt the hard way that deleting the problem most certainly doesn’t make it go away. A man named Armaan Kapur wrote on the company’s Facebook page, explaining that he had been treated poorly in a Delhi branch.

What businesses need to realise is that, strangely enough, customers tend to pay more attention to the negative posts than they do to the positive ones. With enough likes and few thousand comments, the post had gone live virally… and then vanished forever. But it’s too late! People know about it. And now it looks like they were trying to cover their tracks. This normally tends to send alarm bells off in a customers head.

Furthermore, if you’re going to respond to a post that has gained that much traction, address it in the post’s thread so that everyone who has ‘contributed’ to the post can see that you’ve taken action as well.

Pinterest and Instagram

It’sodd to think that customers would complain about images, but with aShareholic study finding that Pinterest drives more traffic topublishers than Twitter, it never hurts to have a plan at the ready.

 Unlike most other social media platforms, Pinterest allows you to get creative. This means that, with your thinking caps on, you can often prevent negative comments from coming your way.

How you ask? By creating a reasonably thorough how-to board. What better way to explain to a customer how to resolve a problem than to have an image walk them thought the process. After all, we can often get lost in technical jargon, so it helps to know exactly what something looks like before you start removing plugs left, right and centre.

Most importantly, humans are visual creatures, and a pictorial representation will most certainly be appreciated, especially if it means that they can fix the problem themselves instead of having to call someone over to handle the situation.

The next tip is for the more confident businesses as it has every chance of going wrong. However, it will let your customers share their experiences and will show that you have nothing to hide!

By building a product review board, you are showing your trust in your customers and creating brand ambassadors for your product or service. Considering that many reviews happen outside of your marketing channels, it’s a great chance to make an environment for them on your terms (on your account).

That way they become more easy to find and demonstrates your willingness to listen to others.

But when it comes to visual-based platforms, Instagram’s rapid growth cannot be ignored.

Straight from the site itself comes a handy tip: consider the context.

“When you see an upsetting post, caption or comment on Instagram, consider the larger conversation it may be connected to,” it states. “Step back and determine the context of the post. Many people use Instagram in ways that are specific only to our service, which can create some confusion when something is taken out of context.”

This is mostly essential due to Instagram’s hashtags. Thoroughly check which hashtags are associated with your post, because you could be completely misunderstood if you’re not following the trend.

To this, the site explains that it is best to “review all information related to the post or the full profile of the person who shared the post to understand the whole story.”