Sparling Wilson

You’ve seen the social media posts that have gone viral when a company’s customer service goes above and beyond the line of duty for their customers, and when you think of your own company’s customer service department, you’re hungry to create those kinds of experiences yourself. You seek to delight, but to what end? Is this where you should be focusing your time and resources?

The reality of social media for most organizations can be devastating. Everyone is familiar with the PR-disasters that ensue when a disgruntled customer shares the tale of a poor interaction with a company’s customer service department, and that company has the misfortune of this story going viral on social media.

But a  post doesn’t have to go viral for it to take a toll on your organization’s reputation.  Think of it like this:  the average service organization receives one million calls per year. Out of those million calls per year, approximately 25% of them will go poorly, leaving your organization with 250,000 frustrated customers.

The old rule of thumb was that each unhappy customer might tell ten people about their bad experience. The result of these bad experiences would be that 2.5 million people each year would get a bad impression of your company.

Impact of Social media on customer service

Enter social media. For the average person active on social media, about 100 people see the content they post. If you take those 250,000 frustrated customers, and each one shares a negative experience about your company on their social platform of choice, you’re left with now 25 million negative impressions. That’s devastating, and that’s without a single one of these posts going viral.

To combat the problem of social media acting as a megaphone for customer complaints, we recommend our clients take steps to mitigate disloyalty.  Customer disloyalty is driven by people feeling like they had a high-effort experience, so our top three tips to get started all center around creating an experience that feels low-effort for your customers. Getting ahead of poor customer experiences is the best way to assuage the risk social media can pose. In this case, the best defense is a good offense:

  1. Make sure your reps are listening actively so they identify the issue quickly and so the customer doesn’t have to repeat themselves. Active listening will save both your rep and your customer a lot of aggravation by avoiding miscommunication, potential repeat contacts, and may even help the rep solve issues that the customer didn’t realize they were facing by uncovering information to get to the root cause of the problem.
  2. Use positive language and focus on what you can do for your customers. Even in instances when “no” is the only option, coach your reps to phrase it in a way that makes the caller feel like they still have options and are in control.
  3. Encourage your reps to act as advocates for both the customers and the company. When customers contact you with an issue, reps shouldn’t blame the customer or the company. Instead, reps should make your customers feel that they (and the company) are all on the same side and working towards the best solution.

Mitigating the risk of bad reviews

Bad reviews are bound to happen from time to time. When they arise, here’s what your company can do to lessen their impact in the long run:

  1. Don’t reward bad behavior. It can be tempting to purse an over-the-top “delight” strategy to deal with customers in a public space. Resist the urge, as you’ll only be encouraging customers to seek resolution in non-traditional channels in the future. Instead, take the conversation private, and work to resolve the customer’s issue as quickly and painlessly as possible.
  2. Arm your reps with the facts. If callers express concerns over a negative social media post (especially a viral one), reps should acknowledge the situation, and then move on to the facts. Oftentimes, a complaint is an outlier, or your company has taken steps to alleviate a systemic issue. Assure customers that your company takes their business seriously by showing them what you are doing to avoid similar situations in the future.
  3. Focus on a long-term strategy to create a low-effort experience. Our research shows that 53% of how a customer feels about a service interaction happens before the rep even answers the phone – we call this phenomenon “customer baggage”.

By using the previous three tips as a par of a robust strategy, you can take control of service interactions, even when the narrative on social media may be unfavorable. In addition, a strategy of this nature will help you get ahead of potential bad experiences to mitigate disloyalty down the line.

Elizabeth Wilson

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