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10/16/12 Tuesday Training: How to Respond to Negative Feedback on Social Media Sites – Part 2

Last week we discussed the importance of this practice. In today’s communication climate, the customer service storms are taking place on Facebook and Twitter instead of private phone lines with customer service representatives. Because of this and the glaringly public nature of these complaints, companies have an opportunity to capitalize on publicly resolving customer concerns in a noteworthy manner, or publicly failing to care for their customers.

Part one in this series was  "Monitor your Brand." We highlighted a social media management company that was utterly unable to manage its own social media.

This week we are underlining another integral part in managing negative feedback on social media sites.

2. Listen

This might be a cardinal rule of customer service – or perhaps communication in general. There is no hope in resolving a complaint if you don’t listen long enough to really understand what the complaint is. You’ve heard the old adage, "You have two eyes, two ears and one mouth, use them at that ratio." Even though online you have two eyes and ten fingers to type with, we still suggest retaining the former attitude. Don’t just read their comment or message. Really listen to what they are saying. What is it that they want? Resolution? Maybe just an apology?

As we mentioned earlier, a very important part to remember in this process is its public nature. What are you telling your other customers as you respond to this customer?

One company we found was doing a great job of monitoring their brand. They kept a close watch on their Facebook page and Twitter mentions, and even managed their customer service on directories such as Yelp and YellowPages. But what they failed to do was listen.

A customer posted a negative comment on a directory and gave the airport parking service 2 out of 5 stars saying, "Don’t buy a reservation online; you’ll pay a service charge and down payment and then get ripped off at check out because they don’t honor the quote. The excuse is that they are independently owned."

To which a representative replied, "There is not a service charge to book online… There has never been a fee. We honor all coupons. We do not give out quotes. You must be speaking of another airport parking lot in the area. Please remove your negative comment."

The company’s representative saw the discrepancies in the customer’s experience and the company’s policy, but didn’t take the time and common sense to really understand the customer’s situation – and that the customer had been confused.

The customer had purchased his reservation on a third party website with empty promises and apparently found upon arrival that the website had no affiliation with that airport parking company. If the representative had taken a moment to remember that scams exist like the one listed above, he might have approached the interaction with more understanding. Instead, the representative immediately assumed the customer was ignorant and then took the offensive, and asked him to remove his post.

Rather than using short, sharp sentences, the representative could have asked for more information about where the customer made his reservation. The customer service representative simply could have said, "We apologize for any inconvenience but we are independently owned. If you plan to park with our company, please be aware that we do not accept reservations or rates from third party websites."

The latter would be informative to anyone researching the company on directories. It would also redirect the negativity away from the company and toward the scam. It could even be added to their website to avoid further confusion for their customers. But instead, the representative didn’t listen to the customer’s issue, used pointed and relatively aggressive communication techniques and completely missed an opportunity to resolve and prevent further customer issues.

And what does the company’s approach to the issue say to potential customers that come across this interaction? That they are not going to listen to your issue? That when they don’t understand your issue they will respond with irritation? That if they don’t understand you, they will ask you not to exercise your voice?

Not exactly what we look for in customer service…

This customer service exchange has been public on Yahoo Local for about four years. That means for four years, people have read the interaction and made their own inferences about the type of service they will receive with this company. Who knows how it has affected their business.

Remember to treat negative feedback on social media like any other kind of customer service – with patience and understanding. But above that, remember that your reaction is public, and it can also be lasting.

By following these guidelines, even negative feedback can be turned into a star on your mental report card in your customers’ minds. It can be informative, preventative, or helpful. And it can help you stand out above your competitors and help your brand become recognized as the celebrity in your niche.

Stay tuned for part 3 next week!

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