By B.L. Ochman
Pre-Internet, I ran a business called Rent-A-Kvetch, in which I was a professional complainer who wrote to companies on behalf of customers who couldn’t get help with problems. The company was a hit because then, as now, most customer service sucks.
“Screw You” attitude prevailed
Heck, I was even on Oprah: three times. That’s because it was hard for customers to complain in those days. Companies had the upper hand. An awful lot of companies would just ignore complaints – if you could even reach anyone who would listen to you. Well, that’s over!
Fast forward: Customer is Queen
Today, anyone with access to the Internet can use social media to cause an unpresonsive company pain and a direct hit to its bottom line. Examples abound, from United Broke My Guitar, Comcast, to scores of others that have gone viral, inspired “XYZ company sucks” and parody Twitter accounts and videos.
Yes, the customer can be wrong, and many are nasty, but most customers who get to the point of making online complaints have a point. Don’t ever ignore a complaint!
Here’s a little refresher course on what companies need to do:
1- Monitor social media mentions of the brand 24/7
2- Respond within 3 hours to complaints in social media (Internet time is like dog years: one hour is like 7 in Internet time!)
3- APOLOGIZE and say you’ll work to solve the problem. (From the hundreds of customer complaints I handled, I learned that what most people wanted most was an apology.)
4- Respond in a human voice (not corporate speak) in the platform where the complaint was posted. If it’s on Twitter, respond on Twitter; on Facebook, respond there, etc.
5- Do not say “You’re the only person who ever complained about this” because that just pisses off the wronged customer. By the time most people take to social media, the company’s representatives have already treated them poorly.
6- Do not try to take the conversation offline to email (as almost every big company does) because you think that’ll make it less public. It won’t. (Ok, to go to direct messages to get account numbers, phone numbers, other personal info, but then go back to public to resolve.)
An angry consumer will just post your offline responses in social media if they aren’t satisfied.
7- Over-deliver on the solution. Send a coupon, send flowers, but send something that makes the person feel better.
Your goal is to have the complainer say “I just got amazing help and service from XYZ Company”
The bottom line – make sure that someone who has the power to solve the problem is the one who responds, apologizes and then over-delivers on the solution so the customer walks away happy.