Monday, August 5, 2013

When Angry Customers Go Social

by: Sean Hawkins

At some point, we’ve all heard that the customer is always right. Whether you agree or disagree  is a matter for debate. What can’t be debated is the customer’s belief that they are always right. Now more than ever, the customer is challenging businesses to live up to this standard. Often, this is done through social media. As social media has matured and become an integral channel in communicating with customers, one can expect to have upset customers via social on a regular basis.

For the most part, customers are intent on expressing their feelings in an effort to find a quick resolution. These social interactions are performed countless times each day and for the most part become mundane and redundant. However, there are certain customers who have determined that damming tweets are their best course of action in getting the desired resolution they want. It is at this point you must be very cautious in how you respond to these “angry customers.”

It should be quite obvious when the customer is attempting to publicly embarrass your brand. It should also be just as obvious how to handle such interactions. Unfortunately, that is not always the case. We not long ago witnessed an epic Twitter meltdown by a Phoenix eatery that made the rounds on morning news shows, blogs, and social media. To avoid embarrassment and the alienation of customers, I suggest taking the following approach: 

Remain professional- This is a tried and true approach. Most often a customer’s anger can be diffused by professionalism and kindness. 

Show empathy- Empathy is not about being sorry, rather it is about acknowledging a customer’s frustration and giving importance to it. I advise agents to put themselves in the customer’s position and feel their frustrations. Customers want to know they matter. Most of all, they want to know they matter to YOU. 

Be honest- Let’s face it, we don’t get things correct 100% of the time. Mistakes happen and accidents are inevitable. Your customer wants the truth, not the excuse. Friedrich Nietzsche said “I'm not upset that you lied to me, I'm upset that from now on I can't believe you.” If we fail to be honest with our customers, they’ll lose confidence in us. Much worse, they will leave us. 

Move offline- Depending on the need of the customer, social may not be the best channel to assist them. Determine what channel is and engage the customer there. Not only does this move the hostility out of the public spaces, it allows you to connect with your customer in a more effective way.

Sean is a Customer Experience, Contact Center and Help desk manager with over 12 years of experience. He has a terrific pulse on incorporating innovation into the contact center. He's implemented social, outsourcing partners, new technology, and new products, while maintaining an award-winning contact center.

In 2011, his team was awarded the ICMI "Global Call Center of the Year" for Small to Medium-Sized Centers. Follow on Twitter- @SeanBHawkins

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