7 Tips to Turn Social Media Complaints into Opportunities

If my message back in February sparked your curiosity, by now I’m sure you’ve boldly gone and opened up your social channels.

And if you have, the chances are that the first thing you’ve seen is a terrifying influx of customer complaints.

The good news is that you’re not alone! Love it or hate it, your customers are talking and complaining about you online, and when social media is opened up as a valid customer service option, businesses find that their customers will naturally turn to these channels as an escalation point.

For those of you who haven’t yet taken the plunge, I know that this sounds scary, and maybe even like a reason not to engage in social.

But the truth is that these complaints give you an unbeatable opportunity to save customers before they move to a competitor – and to create vocal advocates of your product or service. 

Setting up your processes to tackle social complaints head-on is easy, and with the potential upside of reducing churn and increasing brand value, why wouldn’t you invest your time in setting them up right?

Here are the seven basic steps we follow when we set up a new social resolution channel for our customers.

1. Embrace social media as a genuine complaint channel

There can be a lot of noise in your social channel, and you need to train your team to identify the true complaints that need attention, and empower them to do so direct from the channel.

We all have established complaints processes for other channels, and it’s both very tempting and unfortunately common for businesses to try and re-route complaints raised in social media to these traditional, established processes.

However, doing this creates genuine frustration for your customer, and can lead to ridicule and a lack of trust in the channel. So the best tip here is: don’t do it!  Once a valid complaint has been identified, don’t make your customer repeat it via email or phone; they’ve told you, you’ve heard them – get onto fixing it.

2. Hand pick the right team

Social resolution requires a fine balance of engaging with customers whilst solving their problem, so you need a team with a really particular skill set:

Resolution skills: Selecting people with complaint resolution backgrounds is essential, possibly from existing escalation/complaints/management teams.

Broad product knowledge: As social media digs up issues and questions from all aspects of an organisation, they will also need a well-rounded understanding of the wider business and departments.

Socially-savvy and resourceful: They will still need the same skills and attributes you’d normally seek in your social team – such as understanding of the platform, writing skills, ability to think outside the box, etc - but also the skills needed to resolve a range of complex cases and complaints.

Giving the social channel to your core complaints team may seem like the quick fix, but you’re actually asking these people to be a very public voice for your company, so make sure they meet all these requirements up front.

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3. Give them the tools to succeed

Key to the success of managing social complaints is giving the team clear processes to follow, escalation points to use and the ability to offer meaningful outcomes to customers.  This should be documented in your Rules of Engagement, or Social Media Playbook, and clearly outline for the team what they can and can’t do via this platform. This document is used in training and throughout the operation of the service, and it evolves as the needs and goals of the service change.  It’s the source of truth and guidance for your team, so invest the time in documenting it clearly and carefully – and revisit it as the channel grows and changes.

4. Don’t be afraid to pick up the phone

A common stumbling block on any social media page is a stream of messages from a company advising customers to private message or call to discuss their problem.  This one is a simple fix most of the time; YOU should call THEM.

Empower the team to look the customer up in your CRM, pull the contact details and call the customer directly to discuss the issue when the complaint cannot be addressed publicly. Even though the customer has raised the complaint in social, what they’re looking for is resolution – and the faster they get it, the happier they’ll be, so the phone is still definitely your friend.

The key to this strategy is remembering to close the complaint off via social media once it’s resolved with the customer; just a simple reply post to the original complaint is all your agent needs to do. This shows the community that the issue has been resolved, and also encourages positive responses from the complainant, turning detractors into advocates.

5. Know when to take a conversation offline

Sometimes, the social space isn’t the best place to have the conversation with the customer.  Whether it’s sensitive or complicated, or personal details need to be shared – there are times when you do need to revert to private communications.

Your Rules of Engagement document should clearly outline when and how to take a conversation offline, whether as a phone call as above, or to private message, chat or email.  Make this as easy for the customer as possible, let them know why it’s being done, and make sure it’s seamless; as with point 1 above, don’t make them repeat the issue – continue the conversation, and get to that resolution.

6. Listen, learn, and share the outcomes

It is essential to track the types of complaints you are getting via social media, and the sentiment around these topics, to identify ongoing trends in your customer complaints. Using a tool that can measure trends and provide intelligence around these issues can help you fix processes, products and issues and ultimately reduce the number of complaints received around these topics. You can also learn a lot about your products, competitors, and trends in your industry and community.

This info is something that’s not just interesting to you – it affects your customers.  When it’s appropriate, acknowledge and share the findings, particularly if it’s been a public recurring issue in the forum/channel.  Call it out, and proactively share with your community what you’re doing about it. 

7. Always close the loop

I mentioned it in point 4, and I’m mentioning it again because it’s the number one key to moving this from a one-way complaint channel to a community engagement channel: always close off your social complaints.

A brief post back to the customer for open cases resolved via another channel – “great chatting with you, I’m glad we were able to resolve your issue” – is simple to do and generates a really positive response from the customer and the wider community. If this is not done, the company looks unresponsive and unable to resolve complaints to the public.

When done well, these processes create positive responses from complainants, and even more positive responses from your loyal customers. Given the ease in which customers can move to competitors these days, you should be using every opportunity to engage and save them. It also helps turn a page of negativity into one of positive outcomes. It’s not just your existing customers you are trying to impress; it’s also potential customers who are now using social to research your company before making a purchase decision.

Some of the proactive steps help you not only resolve the immediate complaints, but also reduce future complaints – and that’s when the real fun begins, as you move into a community growth and engagement phase. 


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