Social media is no longer the purview of newlyweds, new parents and kitten videos. It is increasingly used by retailers looking to strengthen their brands. Conversely, as mobile shopping continues to grow, social media is putting new power into the customers’ hands. Customers not only are using their mobile tools to purchase online or even in-store, but also to communicate with retailers. And the majority of them want responses. Now.
Most businesses use social as a way to promote their brand rather than as a true channel for facilitating two-way communication. But consumers view social media differently: They see it as a way to have a dialogue with the store or brand. According to research from Sprout, 90% of people surveyed have used social in some way to communicate directly with a brand. Retailers are faced now with a very public airing of customer concerns. Email and telephone calls are no longer top-of-mind for the disgruntled customer. Instead, their gripe is online for all the view to see – and, potentially – agree with. Social media is the first option customers turn to when they have a problem with a product or service.
The first option.
One social media complaint can quickly turn into a disaster. Retailers, therefore, must respond quickly and publicly, because the response isn’t just aimed at the unhappy customer, it also must show potential customers and loyal shoppers alike that you care about all of their business. How quickly? Very. According to Convince and Convert, 42% of your customers will expect a response within 60 minutes, and 57% expect the same response time at night or weekends as during regular business hours. There is no rest for the socially weary.
How to respond? Be polite. Don’t try to be cute or funny in most cases, because it’s easy for that strategy to backfire. Then, simply apologize and invite the customer to private message you. Do not remove their critical comment or others’. (Trolls are different. Abusive or irrational commentary should be deleted and the poster banned.)
Once you have established a private dialogue, discover what the issue is, apologize and offer an explanation if appropriate and then come up with a plan to rectify the problem. Follow up to ensure the fix was implemented and satisfactory. The last thing you want is for a second complaint to be lodged on social media.
Unfortunately, brands generally do a poor job of responding to customer criticism. On average, brands reply to only 11% of those posts. And, to compound customers’ frustration, brands send 23 promotional messages for each response provided. That’s a recipe for louder complaints and reduced customer satisfaction.
Retailers face enough competition; they should not be fighting their own social media policies as well. By getting on top of negative posts in an honest and open fashion, they can take negative situations and turn them into positive ones. Even a service problem can be used to improve customer satisfaction, if handled promptly and in a manner in which customers feel is aimed at genuinely helping them.