I remember the days when the common response to public criticism of your brand’s product or service was: “as long as they’re spelling my name correctly” who cares? Burying one’s head in the sand was a perfectly acceptable response. How bad could it get? Who could they tell?
As recent as five years ago, many were quoting the fickle “48-hour news cycle”, referencing the public’s short attention span lead by news agencies who chased the latest salacious story to capitalize on. How long could a negative story remain in front of the publics’ eye before another captured their attention?
Of course, today this is no longer an acceptable response since public criticisms live on in infinity (and beyond) on social networking sites and archives.
Fear and ignorance of the medium is no longer an excuse corporate executives can hide behind. A well-placed negative tweet, video or blog post can catch fire overnight and immediately impact your business’ bottom line. Just ask United Airlines whose share price dropped 10% after a passenger posted a video describing a bad customer experience, costing shareholders a reported $180 million. You can’t throw a virtual stick today without hitting a similar story.
Marketing and customer service managers are reacting with heavy investments in social media monitoring tools, socially-empowered customer service reps and community managers sitting in social media “command centers” to ensure they have their eyes everywhere. They seek out and proactively respond to criticisms and complaints with specific new rules of engagement that dictate they offer a very public, heartfelt mea culpa and links to offline forums to address the customer’s issue.
Even I’ve gone on record as saying negative criticism is your brand’s best opportunity to create fierce advocates if you quickly acknowledge the customer’s complaint and deal with their issue on their platform of choice. More importantly, you demonstrate to the entire world that you’re listening, you care and that if anything does go wrong (and it does with everyone’s product at some point) that you’ll be there for them.
Competence is Missing From Customer Service Tweets
It’s about building trust. Trust is the operative word in our social era where public perception of your product’s quality and customer service is just as important – if not more – than the actual quality and service level.
In theory, publicly demonstrating your concern and attention to criticism will create publicly happy customers and observers who will influence others to positively engage you. But influence is about trust and more specifically the other person’s willingness to trust you. Trust is only established with equal parts of competence and character as Linda Hill detailed so well in the Harvard Business Review this month.
Arguably, honest, open and proactive communications with your audience through social media dialogue is an effective way to demonstrate your company’s character but how does it demonstrate competency? How does filling the airwaves with images of your apologetic mea culpas establish your business’ competency? When your social stream is filled with posts such as the ones shown above, are you not creating the exact opposite impression? That your product and business are, in fact not competent?
I’m not suggesting that we don’t continue on this path of publicly addressing our customer’s complaints. However, we must move beyond public displays of affection and consider public displays of competence if we wish to maximize this medium and the power of disgruntled-turned-satisfied customers.
Agree? Disagree? Share your opinions below. How can a business demonstrate its competence along with its character when engaging in social customer service?
[check out part two in this series: Customer Service is NOT a Short-Term Strategy]
Sam Fiorella – Sensei
Feed Your Community, Not Your Ego