How to Quash a Customer Service Social Media Uprising

Consumers are talking about their customer experiences with more people than ever before. According to a recent American Express Global Customer Service Barometer if a customer has a good experience they will tell on average 42 people. If they have a bad experience they will spread the message to 53 people. A major reason for this increase in customer influence is social media.

Gartner Analysts note that: “Over the last 10 years, customers’ trust in big business has declined rapidly. Customers have become more willing to complain, more willing to switch suppliers after a poor experience and more likely to tell others about it.”

Social media platforms have led to customers interacting with businesses more frequently. This has given companies an opportunity to build brand loyalty and increase customer retention. But, social media is also a double-edged sword. Social media platforms have given ordinary consumers a megaphone which they can use to reach a wider audience to voice their complaints.

Sara Weber of IBM has her own insights:  “Through use of social media we feel like we know each other, even if we have never met face to face. That’s helping enable the cultural shift in the world from an ownership model to a sharing model. Postings help give you the feeling that you know the person and are therefore more likely to trust and help that person.”

Social media is giving consumers more power to voice complaints and raises expectations for prompt responses. When handled badly a complaint on social media can be incredibly damaging for a company’s reputation. But when handled well a negative situation can be transformed into a positive for the company. Here are three ways to quash a social media uprising before it begins.

Always Be Responsive

In 2013 British Airways (BA) lost Hasan Syed’s fathers luggage. When he complained using Twitter he received a message that British Airwaves Twitter support was only available during certain parts of the day. His response – to purchase a promoted Tweet expressed his complaint to a much wider audience.

Syed’s complaint was quickly picked up by other media outlets and demonstrated how little BA understood social media customer support. Brands always need to respond to complaints from the customer promptly. A major company like BA cannot provide social media support only when it is convenient for them.

As shown with the lost luggage story failing to provide a reasonable answer can result in very damaging publicity for the company. But a fast and effective response can pay off very well for the company. According to NM Incite 71% of customers who receive a quick response on social media that solves their problem will recommend that brand to other people.

Provide Multiple Contact Points

A mistake that some companies make is to believe that because they provide support on one social media platform that they are doing enough. Brands need to be aware that customers expect a response where they choose to comment or complain. This means that the company should provide social media support on major platforms such as Twitter and Facebook.

If the problem cannot be solved on the platform that the customer has approached the company with them they should be directed to an alternative medium. This could include providing the customer with an email address where they can find help straight away.

Accept That the Customer Is Always Right

Sometimes it can be a tough pill to swallow but you need to accept that the customer is always right. Even if you think that the customer complaint is not valid you should still acknowledge the fact that they are unsatisfied with the service or product that they’ve received and apologize for the situation. Then work on a solution to remedy the problem.

Depending on the level of anger of the complaining customer you may want to direct them to a telephone number where you can address the problem in more depth. The most important thing is not to ignore the problem or to refuse to accept that the customer has a legitimate complaint. On social media you need to look beyond the customer that you’re talking to think about the audience that is watching and what their reaction will be.

Managing complaints on social media can be challenging and does involve a significant investment of time and money. But there are also advantages that public customer support medians don’t provide. When you do a great job of handling customer complaints and comments on social media is not just that customer that will see the effort that you have put in.

Providing first-class customer support on social media can actually win over new customers to your business. Spending money on social media can be one of the best investments you can make and branding and promoting your company.

Gartner ends on a positive: “Customer service and support are the central opportunity for an enterprise to demonstrate ethical behavior.”


Amy Clark is the Lead Author & Editor of IWantItNow Blog. Amy established the Customer Engagement blog to create a source for news and discussion about some of the issues, challenges, news, and ideas relating to customer service, support and engagement.