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Navigating Viral Customer Complaints
By: McBee|Gibraltar
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An organization’s ability to communicate has changed drastically from the “dial-up ‘90s” to the broadband and fiber world of today. In the mid-‘90s, a communications campaign included newspaper ads, radio spots, or talk show appearances. While a modern communications campaign may still include some or all of the above, there is a brand new factor to take into consideration: the social media chatter of the entire planet.

Each person has the potential to be important and influential on social media. Whether an individual has 100 followers or one million, thanks to our connections and the viral nature of online content, a negative experience with a company can spread across the web in a matter of hours. Take care to plan and anticipate the negative feedback. But also take the time to reward positive messages, as those let you know how much an individual loves your company.

Setting Yourself Up for Success

Posts, reviews, links — shares of every kind are being presented online by individuals every second, so it may not be realistic for you or your organization to identify and respond to each message that tangentially mentions your brand. Acknowledge that fact and plan for the best. Here are some things you can do to set yourself up for success:

Establish a culture of two-way communication that places value on the individual. Respond to your customers, even when you can’t solve their problems. A study found that 83% of Twitter users reported “liking” or “loving” that a company responded to their tweet — negative or positive, resolved or not — because they liked the fact that the company acknowledged them.

Reward both positive and negative comments, otherwise you may foster a culture that only rewards complaints and could miss out on valuable positive customer experiences.

Have a social media crisis plan in place to be able to quickly respond to a viral customer complaint or issue. Some questions to consider:
a. What is your threshold for labeling an issue a social media customer crisis? Based on number of YouTube views? Severity of claim? Importance of person involved? Define this for your own peace of mind.
b. What are the types of complaints a customer could have? Catalog and plan for each.
c. In what form is the complaint/issue? Video? Twitter? Facebook? In what form do customers on each channel like to hear from your company? Discover this — and use it.
d. How do you respond to the person? What are you willing/able to offer in the immediate while you deal with a potentially longer-term resolution? Have a procedure in place.
e. How should you respond to the media? Have a basic media strategy in place that can be tailored to the crisis — trust us, you’ll appreciate having it when you need it the most.

Although at first it may seem to be a challenge, you will quickly realize that, when properly managed and maintained, the seeds of consumer feedback can be enhanced and tailored so that it grows to be one of the strongest branches of your organization’s network. When properly taken care of and leveraged, each individual and consumer can become a champion for your brand.
This blog was adapted from an original piece on the McBee Strategic website. Ashtan Moore and Jess Stone are digital media specialists at McBee|Gibraltar. Connect with them on Twitter: @ashtanmoore and @jstonemv .

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About the Author
McBee|Gibraltar is the strategic communications solution on the McBee Strategic Consulting platform, based in Washington, D.C.. Forged in 2013 between McBee and Gibraltar Associates, McBee|Gibraltar provides communications counsel and services to global corporations, smaller public and private companies, investment and professional service firms and high-profile individuals. www.McBeeStrategic.com
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