If you spend any time around social media, you’ll quickly realize that it is one of the easiest platforms to voice a complaint. Some companies ignore the negative sentiment that may pop up online, but others are finding masterful ways to spin a negative into a positive.
There are a few simple steps we can all take to try to handle issues and save customers online:
1. Accountability – step up and own the issue
As a customer and consumer, I don’t expect perfection. At the same time, there are certain situations where a problem can cripple a business. The absolute, worst thing that you can do is nothing. People have some level of forgiveness by nature, but ignoring, covering up, or lying about an issue only makes things worse. Check out this Google Search for “apple antenna lie” to see how not addressing the issue quickly can have a disastrous effect. Admit the fault, apologize for the inconvenience you caused (not “may have caused” because clearly there is an inconvenience) and follow through towards a resolution to try to make things right.
2. Escalate – get the right person talking
Not every issue requires the CEO having a press conference. However, sometimes the Assistant to the Assistant Manager may not be the person you want on the front-lines. Pull in a superior, explain the issue, and setup a conference call with folks that aren’t satisfied with the explanation offered. In the examples that I’ll discuss later, in most cases… I was happy by the escalation alone and the end result was a bit irrelevant.
3. The Five Ps – Prior Planning Prevents Poor Performance
If you’re hiking the Appalachian Trail with a friend, to what extent do you plan your trek? Do you just say “we’ll figure it out” or do you know where you’re sleeping every night? It never ceases to amaze me at the cases I hear of folks not prepared to handle a crisis. Pull in the appropriate parties, discuss previous examples – pros and cons, establish how to handle a worst case scenario, and have your infrastructure established.
I’ve had first-hand experiences with several companies that have knocked this out of the park and saved my business (I’ll also grade them for those of you that don’t read all the text).
GoDaddy – A
A crisis with your hosting company is never a fun experience. It is a great mixture of anger, frustration and disappointment – for you and maybe even for your readers. I ran into an issue with GoDaddy and they handled it smoothly. I even bought more domains by how they resolved the situation (thanks to The Office of the President). I’ve written about this before and you can check out the detailed blog post on how GoDaddy saved my business with social media.
Zagg – B+
My favorite pair of ear buds come from Zagg – they make incredible products. We had just launched Phonebooth Free at SXSW and rocked it. I boarded the flight to head home and my favorite buds shorted out. I was one month out of warranty and reached out to their team on Twitter. After several emails and DMs, I ended up with a new pair of my favorite listening devices. Unfortunately, their customer support staff wasn’t really on the same page with the outstanding Twitter outreach. Altogether, great work and absolutely awesome products that I stand behind. The Twitter team followed up with me post-transaction to make sure I was still happy. 🙂
DirecTV – A+
I was a few hours away from completely cancelling my DirecTV service. I had a technician show up six hours late for a scheduled appointment, an incomplete upgrade installation that left me with no TV (oh noes!), mud tracked in the house, and the next available appointment was a month away. I was pretty furious and my switching cost was immediately down to zero. I had an unsatisfactory call with customer support and voiced my displeasure on Twitter. DirecTV’s team on Twitter reached out to me, escalated the issue, worked with the cancellation department I had called, and had The Office of the President call me.
I had told the cancellation department that if the issue wasn’t resolved the next day, that I would cancel (not being a jerk, but there were better alternatives than spending more time on the issue). On my way home from work, I received a call from The Office of the President telling me that someone should be at my house before I made it there. When I arrived, an extremely helpful technician was already there working outside with his supervisor. They changed a ton of things that had been botched by the previous tech and convinced me that I had a single, isolated, bad experience.
I’m back in the extremely happy category with DirecTV and even a reference for other customers… if it wasn’t for their monitoring on Twitter and their outreach… I would be on U-Verse or just watching TV online. The fact that they followed through with other departments and had a qualified person reach out to me over the phone was awesome.
Beggars can’t be choosers
Too often, we only try to elevate the positive sentiment in social media… especially internally. While this is definitely a good thing and helps with job security, neglecting negative sentiment and failing to try to understand it will doom you. It can lead to product improvements, happier customers, and even save business… like in my case.