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Four Ways to Win Back Unhappy Customers (Or Job Candidates) Using Social Media
Four Ways to Win Back Unhappy Customers (Or Job Candidates) Using Social Media

Four Ways to Win Back Unhappy Customers (Or Job Candidates) Using Social Media

No matter what you sell or what industry you're in, your company is going to experience negative word of mouth. A customer is going to feel mistreated, ignored or just plain ticked off. A prospective employee is going to feel unfairly treated. And these days, unhappy campers turn to the Internet to air their grievances.

When that negative word of mouth occurs through social media, remember: social media is about engagement, so engage--the right way--on the complainer's turf. A great response strategy can convert angry customers and their supporters into loyal brand advocates.

Here are four ways you can meet criticism head on and turn it around using social media and direct engagement.

Act Like a Human Being.

1. Pay Attention!

Great responses start with great listening--and monitoring the major social networks.

Set up Google Alerts for your brand and industry keywords.
Keep a close eye on your Facebook page.
Watch for your company name on Twitter.
Read reviews on sites such as Yelp, TripAdvisor and Amazon (depending on the type of business you have).
Check in on any forums or communities where you know your customers congregate.

The faster you discover problems, the faster you can respond--before they get out of control.

2. Respond Quickly.
When you read a public complaint, you've got to react as soon as possible. The longer you delay, the more annoyed the unhappy person becomes, and the more time he'll have to inflict damage on your company's reputation.

Stop the complainer in his tracks by giving a personalized response. Respond directly to the person, give your name, and tell him you're working to resolve the problem. Then--and this is key--give him a way to contact you directly, via phone or email.

What does this accomplish?The customer knows he has your attention. Now there's much less incentive for him to keep complaining. And, you've just said in a public forum that you're aware of the problem and you're going to do something about it. Now others who are tuning into the issue or were already following your brand will give you props for making the contact.

A caveat: Not every negative comment needs your attention. If the criticism or complaints are on a relatively small forum or personal blog, if they come from a known troll, or if they're completely outrageous or dubious, don't waste your time.

Act Like a Human Being.
3. Act Like a Human Being.
Don't respond to people like you're copying from a legal department script or a customer service manual. They don't want to know what your policy terms are or what they should do. They want to know what you're going to do for them. Be understanding about their complaint or concern and communicate in a friendly tone that you're working on solving their issue. Now that you've become a real person to them, not just a front for some faceless company, their anger will often subside. You've disarmed the critic, and you're turning the tables to a more civil direction.

Make It Right.

4. Make it Right.
Of course, now you have to do what you've said you will: solve the problem. Or at the very least, apologize and try to make good on whatever went wrong.

Don't make excuses, don't blame the customer or participate in an argument. Just address the issue at hand. Good reputation management is good customer service, and it requires that you give the customer something. You either solve the problem or you make good. Once you've made a customer mad, you need to do something to fix the relationship. It's like a spat with your spouse. You need the customer service equivalent of the nice card or the flowers.

And do it publicly, not only offline or on the phone. You want people to see you give a sincere apology and explain why the situation happened in the first place. You want them to see all the effort you put into fixing the problem. Now thousands more people see that you actually care about customers--plus, you save time by averting complaints from others who had the same issue.

When you start engaging your audience in social media, you need to be prepared for everything. Take the time to create a simple action plan for how your company will respond to customer service issues that arise. And give your employees the tools and permissions they need to resolve issues quickly and directly.