Businesses often find themselves bombarded with comments in reference to their business, services and products. Most fear the dreaded negative comments or remarks that customers post on the internet for all to see. There are two ways to go about dealing with these comments, the right way and the wrong way. It would be easy to simply ignore, delete or lash out at the comment or customer, but the repercussions of these actions would be far more damaging than the negative comment itself. Here are some steps to help you properly and effectively manage negative comments.
Stop And Think
It may be instinct to react quickly, but it’s important to remember to stop, think about the comment and absorb what’s being said. This is when you should take a moment to understand where the comment is coming from and what the intent of the poster is.
Determine the type of criticism. Not all negative comments are the same, so it’s important to determine what type of criticism you are dealing with. Is the comment a legitimate complaint, a suggestion for improvement or an attack on your business for no valid reason? Does the customer just want to be heard or are they maliciously criticising? Identify what the comment’s target is before you decide on the appropriate plan of action.
Respond In A Timely Manner
When a customer takes the time out to express how they feel about your business, it’s only fair that you should return the favour. Not only should you always respond to comments, but you should do so promptly. Responding within an appropriate time frame lets the customer know that you care about their input and want to address the situation. This demonstrates that the customer’s feedback is important to your business. The only exception to the rule is when a comment is made without reason or solely made to be damaging (known as trolling or spam); these should be removed to avoid further confrontation.
Be Approachable For Further Conversation
It is important to reply to comments made on the platform they were originally posted on. This not only provides a direct connection, but looks good in the eyes of other customers who can see that you have addressed a fellow customer’s comments. An important lesson here is to always leave additional contact information so the customer can contact you personally to further discuss an issue. This way, if necessary, you can handle the issue in a more private and personal manner; away from the eyes of other online viewers.
Be Both Helpful And Apologetic
We have all heard the saying “the customer is always right” and at times like these, they are words to live by. You will gain respect and maintain a good reputation by apologizing for the situation or issue which ignited the negative comment. A sincere “We’re sorry” will not only defuse the situation, but will put the customer at ease knowing that you understand where they are coming from. Additionally, advise them that you will address the issue mentioned and will do your very best to find a solution (within reason) that suits both sides. They want to know that action is being taken.
Maintain Your Composure
Do not damage your reputation by lashing out at the customer who made the negative comment. Although these types of comments can be frustrating to deal with, always maintain control of your emotions and deal with the comment or customer accordingly. Inappropriate responses or actions will be much more damaging in the long run and will result in a loss of respect for the way in which you handle business. You do not want your tactless actions to reflect poorly on your business.
Value what customers have to say about you and your business. Even though negative comments can be hard to swallow, take it as a lesson learned or view it as constructive criticism. Don’t be quick to go on the defensive or react negatively; there is always something to be learned, and you should see it as an opportunity to work towards fixing any flaws. Always investigate what the customer has to say and try to improve upon the issue. Reassure the customer that you are doing everything in your power to address and fix the issue.
Not only should you address the negative comments posted by customers, but also show appreciation to those who have taken the time to leave you positive remarks or compliments. These types of comments are just as important to respond to as the bad ones so show some acknowledgment and gratitude towards them as well!
This past Monday marked a milestone for Tim Hortons as they started yet another Roll Up The Rim event. This year was different though, the company was determined to change things and this sudden reaction came from a serious backlash through social media platforms in 2010. There were blogs simply dedicated to keeping track of how many coffees were winners, there were angry social media status updates and countdowns which undermined the company by stating that the odds were horrible and the contest simply wasn’t worth it anymore. With people all over the country getting fed up with Tim Hortons, the company knew they had to make changes fast for the next Roll Up The Rim event; and that’s exactly what they did.
As of 2010, Tim Hortons claimed that the odds of winning a prize were 1-in-9 and that these odds are audited daily when producing new cups for the contest. The number of available food prizes are part of the changes Tim Hortons made to the Roll Up The Rim contest this year. Last year there were 31 million food prizes and this year that number has been bumped up to 47 million to increase the overall odds to 1-in-6 and boost the number of winning cups by about 50%.
Tim Hortons has also decided to offer social media users something extra in hopes of drowning out the complaints. They created a photo builder on their Roll Up The Rim page that allows users to upload a photo of their choice with a frame and multiple statement options such as “I ♥ RRRoll Up!” They’ve even added a RRRoll up the Rim Roulette game on their website that gives registered users an extra chance to win every day by spinning the wheel for a $25 Tims card or the grand prize of free coffee for a year. If you’re a big fan, don’t forget to enter into the Longest Rolling RRR contest. All you have to do is record your longest rolling RRR right on the Time Hortons website and upload it with a photo. Your entry is automatically entered and posted to Facebook for fans to view. Who knew coffee could be so interactive?
It seems like the coffee giant has really taken a lot of things into consideration. I’d like to congratulate them on being so proactive by taking the time to listen to their customer complaints, researching their online brand reputation and using this information to move their business forward. This is a great case study for businesses of all sizes! Sometimes it’s difficult to research all the negative comments and feedback, but in the end, the more you know the more changes you can make to improve customer experiences and repair any damages your brand may have encountered online and offline.
Social media presents a great way for brands to engage with consumers in real-time about their problems, suggestions or concerns. Before it emerged into the spotlight, making a complaint about a product or service was seen as a painstaking process that required 1-800 numbers, horrible hold music, and distant mail addresses. Most people didn’t bother to complain at all seeing as the process was time consuming and often not warranted for minor issues or concerns. Plus, there was always the lingering question, “will someone even respond?”
Thanks to social media, consumers have access to a quick and easy outlet for expressing their thoughts. Aside from posting, tweeting, blogging and sharing videos on their personal pages, they have the ability to post directly on corporate pages as most brands are now well integrated within the social media scene. While messaging or posting directly to a brands page is convenient, it may not always meet the consumer’s expectations. In a world where everything is so fast-paced and immediate, it’s easy for people to develop unrealistic expectations in terms of how quickly a response should be sent or the issue should be dealt with. If a complaint gains publicity or traction, most companies will give in by offering multiple solutions so the problem can disappear as soon as possible. Even if the complaint is something very minor, a company who responds quickly and does so in a way that allows everyone to see how reactive they are, is a positive in the eyes of the consumer.
In the same sense, making customer service so public has changed the way people express their concern. What was once a refined and productive system has become an outlet for people to simply whine and complain about anything they want.
Companies who are integrated into social media networks are experiencing things they never have before in the realm of customer service. Having someone call in to a customer service line to complain about an ignorant associate is a lot different then having them post it online for millions of people to see and comment on themselves. This social aspect of sharing is very valuable for consumers but not necessarily for the companies who find themselves stuck between a rock and a hard place. It’s difficult to simply shrug off a complaint when it’s posted prominently on your corporate facebook page racking up comments and stirring up your loyal customers.
There is a fine line between good customer service and unrealistic customer service and many companies are pushing past the original guidelines and moving into a realm of desperation in order to handle complaints. When companies give in to consumers just to satisfy the public, the entire customer service process can easily crumble and the company could find itself struggling to stay afloat.
Groubal is an online company who champions customer complaints and demands actions from those responsible. Users can create a login and either submit groubals (complaints) or sign others to ensure a greater opportunity for change. A guest blogger, Dan Zambonini from Content Strategy agency Contentini, did a study from August 13th to August 16th 2010 to find out which companies have the most customer service complaints on Twitter. By searching for “customer service” together with any one of: fail, sucks, worst, poor, bad, terrible or awful, he was able to pinpoint the top 10 companies with the most customer service complaints on Twitter. He extracted the tweets and used an Excel spreadsheet to map the data. Through the study he found over 500 unique businesses were mentioned but AT&T managed to come out on top with over 5% of the total volume of complaints in the survey. Rounding up the top ten were Verizon, Comcast, T-Mobile, Walmart, Apple, Sprint, Best Buy, Delta and Direct TV. For more information about the study and the top reasons why customers complain, please visit their blog.
What matters most, regardless of the medium, is communicating with your consumers. If you receive a complaint, comment back publicly so other page viewers can see how serious you are when it comes to your customers needs. At the same time, it’s important to be realistic with solutions so consumers don’t think that any complaint will warrant a free $20 gift card (for example). As a company, it’s up to you to define good customer service and if you choose to participate in the world of social media, prepare yourself for all the feedback, both negative and positive, as it will help you to grow and develop a strong presence online.