It’s been a while since I’ve heard this fear from a customer but a couple of days ago someone told me that they were wary of having a Facebook page for their business in case of complaints and negative feedback.  When I delved further into how this business usually received complaints it turns out they hardly get any complaints and when they do the customers tell them face to face or they find out by losing a customer.  What they do hear is lots of complaints from new customers about their competitors.  This tells me they are probably a very good business providing a much higher quality of service and customer care so why are they worried?

The myth seems to be that if someone complains about your business online there is nothing you can do about it and the complaint is there forever for everyone to see.  This is just not the case, especially if it is on your own page or social media presence.  My first point to this customer was that if someone cannot complain directly to you on your own FaceBook page they will still want to vent their frustrations and will be likely to do this on their own profile where you can’t see it.  Wouldn’t you rather know what people are saying about your business and have the opportunity to respond than being left out of the conversation altogether?

Here are a few tips from Social Media Examiner on how to deal with customer complaints online and maybe even turn a negative situation into an opportunity to demonstrate how fantastic your customer service really is.

There is also a positive side to listening to your customers and responding to their feedback – you can learn from it.  If you never hear a negative thing from your customers and absolutely everything they say is positive then you are either 100% perfect in every way and never ever make even the smallest mistake (is this likely?) or you’re not listening properly.

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All feedback is good feedback because even the negative statements provide you with an opportunity to improve.  If you can demonstrate that improvement immediately in your response then all the better as you will not only delight your current customer but you will also show all your potential future customers how great you are at proactively fixing problems as soon as you are made aware of them – double win.

TNS Nipo conducted a research study into 2000 social media complaints made across 10 industries. The aim was to explore who complains, why, and how complainants want companies to respond. Here are some of the answers:

  1. Rather than women or Internet-savvy youths, older men are the most likely demographic group to complain online.
  2. 30% of people post online to vent negative feelings and 23% post purely for vengeance.
  3. 71% post their complaint online as a result of failing traditional customer service.
  4. Brands need to monitor the wider social web to find out where their customers are posting: 10% of people post to review sites, 12% to forums and 2% to blogs.
  5. Consumers choose to complain on specific channels based on their motives. For example, those seeking vengeance post to a social network, rather than the corporate website.
  6. Overall 70% of complainants hope to receive a response, while just 38% receive one.
  7. According to TNS NIPO, the success of the response is determined by 3 factors: (1) the speed of the response time (2) the quality of the solution provided, and  (3) how the response is provided. Olga described this last point as Hostmanship, i.e. how well you provide the human touch.
  8. Net Promoter Score (NPS), the willingness of consumers to recommend the brand, can be doubled (3.4 to 7.2) by combining these three factors to good effect.
  9. Evidence shows that, for consumers, web care is the last chance the company gets.
  10. For brands, web care is an opportunity to turn critics around. Sadly, the figures show that most still fail at doing this.

Of course, we are often told that ‘the customer is always right’, however, it’s obvious that this is a rule that does not always apply.  Here is an interesting view on why the customer is ‘not’ always right.

So rather than fearing those customer complaints and letting that stop you having a presence on a particular social media platform, embrace everything your customers have to say and use it to your advantage.  Here is a really useful article from our friend Andy Hanselman on Increasing Customer Loyalty by Dealing with Disappointment.