Not So Social: When the Customer is Wrong

cheers

Funny thing about social media. Everyone has a voice. Can be a right voice. A left voice. A loud voice. A quiet voice. Can be part of the vocal minority or part of the crowd.

No matter your views, social media provides you and me with an open invitation to say what we feel, sometimes void of little things like facts, perspective or sound thinking.

Heck, companies not only have a presence socially, many openly ask for customers, clients, vendors, partners, etc., to “tell it like it is” – – well, at least tell it like they think it is.

And there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that as long as we all understand the rules of engagement.

Four or five years ago, I started my current company’s Facebook and Twitter pages. Out of necessity, really. I had begun responding to inaccurate posts and blogs about my company and/or industry and used Twitter to search for those blogs in question (the thinking was, bloggers would use Twitter as a way to distribute their blogs). During this process, I came to the “brilliant” realization (I really do need to invent the sarcasm button on the keypad) that my company should be proactively getting our messages out to our real audience. Hence, our social pages were born.

Along with the proactive posts, came responding to client concerns. A beautiful thing that can prove beneficial to both the company and the client or customer.

You see, one of two things should happen. Either it is determined that the company did something wrong and it becomes a chance to make it right for the client/customer and a learning/teaching opportunity for the company. Or, you learn that the client/customer is not being 100 percent accurate/honest/fair with the claim and it really isn’t your fault.

No matter the instance, typical operating procedure has become to quickly acknowledge the customer/client complaint and to – just as quickly – take the conversation off of the social page and onto the corporate email, phone call, etc. That is, until a positive resolution is met and either the company or customer goes back online with the happy ending.

Unfortunately, this isn’t always happening. More and more I am seeing companies that are short on follow through and customers and clients who are long on reasonable. There are plenty examples of companies overpromising and under delivering to their customers and examples of “rogue” customers posting unfounded claims, making different social sites their playground for getting back at a company they believe wronged them.

So, what is a PR person to do? Here are a couple of thoughts:

Get the buy-in of the C-Suite by showing the power of social media. Capture all of the comments real-time and graph the trends. Are their certain areas that are consistently questioned? Are comments tied to a specific promotion? A specific department? Are you seeing similar complaints from other touchpoints?

Work with the right departments within the organization to get resolution. Social media cannot be a catalog of complaints where we just say, “sorry, we’ll try better.” We must be able to have a team in place that will be able to get answers. Why’d this happen? What are we going to do to make it better? What are we going to do to assure it doesn’t happen again?

Act as an advocate for the consumer but have your company’s back. Do what you can for the consumer, but make sure he/she is acting professionally and or civilized. Profanity, lewd behavior is unacceptable and should not be tolerated. Have that as part of your company description on your home page.

I’m not someone who believes that every social interaction should be kept for prosperity. If/when someone is anti-social, protect your brand and don’t give them a platform.  Being the loudest doesn’t make you right, and if someone becomes that out of control, cut bait.

The Golden Rule truly applies here. If your company has done something wrong, fess up to it, learn from it and move on. If a customer/client is being rude, profane and unreasonable, put a stop to it. It is more than okay to block them from your page if they are so over the top.

What examples do you have of a company doing right socially? Have you seen a customer go awry? Would you block someone? Let me know, please.

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