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Customer service protocol for social media platforms

By on Sep 25, 2013 in Search, Site, Social, Support

Never let a customer leave without a smile on her face

Social Media. Don't get it wrong.

Social Media. Don’t get it wrong.

Social media provides a unique platform through which businesses can engage with their customers and where potential new customers can look up the companies they want to buy from and assess their preferences. On the flip side, however, is the possibility that customers who’ve had a bad experience working with you – for whatever reason – can also say as much on that public forum. Now in this situation everybody who sees the comment will be waiting for your response with bated breath. So how do you handle it so that your reputation for excellent customer service remains in tact?

There are really only three choices:

  1. Delete the comment
  2. Counter attack
  3. Be the bigger person and apologise

WHAT?! You’re expected to apologise when it wasn’t even your fault? You should apologise when that idiot customer got the complete wrong end of the stick?! That’s not customer service, that’s ridiculous… or is it?

Well yes, actually.

Customer service is about just that: serving the customer. There is a lot of sentiment going about these days that businesses are doing their customers a favour by just being there. It’s not true. Without customers there is no business. That doesn’t mean that you have to kowtow to bullies, it just means that you need to be the bigger person, and maintain the moral high ground, as best you can in a bad situation. Do that for your reputation, your relationships and the future growth of your business.

So let’s explore your options.

Delete the comment

If you decide to delete the comment, those people who saw it before you did so will be left wondering. The logic is fair enough and goes something like this:

‘Is it true that this business treats their customers like this? I’m one of their customers. I don’t want to be treated like that. I don’t think I’ll go back just in case that lack of customer service affects me too.’

If it is downright blasphemy or spam, by all means delete it and then mention that you have and why. Because of this exception to the rule here, deleting the comment is by far the second worst thing you can do.

The worst thing you can do is:

Counter attack

There is nothing more off-putting than watching a business bickering with its customers in an open forum. There is absolutely nothing redeeming about it at all, it merely proves the client is right and enables other customers to see this serious lack of impulse control on behalf of the company. It is a really, really unnecessary reaction. Don’t do it. Instead you could politely ask the customer to contact you directly to sort out the problem. Proving maturity and competence in the face of adversity enables people to trust that you have the customer service standards they want to be able to expect when doing business.

What you should do is:

Be the bigger person and apologise

You don’t need to apologise for your actions if you have done nothing wrong and it is entirely the customers fault. However, you can express your apologies for the fact that she feels she had a bad experience at your store. Make your apology sincere – you should genuinely care that this has happened on your ‘turf’. You can also go out of your way to make her feel better about the whole thing. It’s not personal, it’s not about principles. It’s about business. And you want your business to thrive, so keep your customers happy.

Having the ideology that a customer should never leave your establishment without a smile on her face may mean that every once in a while you lose a little money in a single transaction, but you will gain so much more in the long run. Your reputation as a fair and trustworthy business will spread quickly if you handle the situation well.

Business is about impressions and relationships, and keeping a good impression and maintaining those hard won relationships is an on-going process. One small apology can go a long way to keeping the good name you’ve worked so hard for. Not responding by deleting a comment, or actively bickering in public, will destroy your reputation before you can even begin to regret your decision.

Have you had an experience in which your business has been publicly shamed on the social networks? How did you handle it? Or, if you were the customer, how were you dealt with?

Jane Hendry is Writer-in-Chief for aXent Associates. Her passion for education has led her to home school her children, and she reads voraciously to quench her own insatiable thirst for knowledge. Follow Jane on Twitter or Google+. Visit her blog to read about content marketing and life-long learning.

Great content writing, combined with a marketing strategy based on decades of online marketing success form the foundation of a potent relationship marketing plan.