This week, I’m going to give you a few tips about how to deal with online criticisms of your business.
No business pleases everyone. And now, displeased customers can complain in public. Sometimes with lots of people watching. And when that happens, what do you do?!
Shockingly enough, many companies are choosing to ignore online complaints. Look at this blog post by Jay Baer, based on research published in September 2011. According to that research, less than a third of complaints on Twitter were responded to by the company being complained about. According to Baer,
Brands must look at these new channels as the “social telephone” and ignoring these 140-character cries for help is a flawed decision.”
There are a few options. First thing is to assess the validity of the complaint. If Jane Bloggs is saying you screwed up the delivery and the product was broken when it finally got delivered… is she right? If so, did you know about her dissatisfcation and attempt to make things right? You need to have as complete a picture of what happened as you can get, so you can know where you stand and decide on a response.
It might be that this person is not a customer at all. And that’s good to know too. It might be rare, but some people do enjoy causing trouble by making up stories.
Assuming Jane Bloggs is real, then reach out using the same means she did to voice her complaint. Did she tweet it? Then @ her. Did she use Yelp? Then comment on her post, and try to engage her.
Use neutral language. Acknowledge her feelings. Show that you’re listening. And try to move the discussion into a more private place, like email, or even better, the phone. Human contact trumps electronic contact when it comes to resolving conflict.
If you’re able to mollify her and resolve the issues which got her mad, then thank her for being reasonable and promise to do better in the future. And do.
If you aren’t, do your best, and explain why you can’t help any more than you can.
I’ve adapted this chart from the US Air Force’s chart of how they respond to bloggers. And thanks to Jeremiah Owyang, we’ve all had a chance to see that classic piece of work.
Don’t ignore complaints. You’re only hurting yourself.