January 20, 2012 by Jeff Hurt
Ever been in a small business or restaurant that has a small bell sitting on the front counter?
Next to the bell is a sign with the words “Ring for service.”
In my opinion, many of today’s social media networks are the equivalent of that little bell with the words “Tweet or post for service.”
The challenge for most organizations is whether they are listening for that social media bell to ring.
Many organizations are looking for an edge over their competitors. They are willing to do anything that would prompt potential customers to do business with them.
Some have prompted customer service departments to create a Twitter account and Facebook page. The goal is to create an online concierge service for their customers.
These organizations start by identifying online keyword searches for the products and services they offer. Then they use Google Alerts and a Twitter app such as Hootsuite or Tweetdeck to monitor when those words are used.
While monitoring posts that contain those keywords, they look for mentions that imply a decision is being considered. Customer service then responds to mentions that blatantly ask for advice. They aim to assist and gently influence the person toward a mutually beneficial choice. Then they facilitate a transaction, hopefully with their business.
Sometimes customers just want to vent and argue. Digital customer service is not the place to have a battle with angry customers. Don’t try to win online. In fact, don’t even engage in the fight.
Remember the customer service golden rule: The customer is always right. Social media doesn’t negate this rule. It’s just the opposite. Having an online battle with a customer will generate a tremendous number of witnesses. A snarky or derogatory comment from an agent can lead to many more comments, updates and blog posts.
Here are several principles to consider for digital conflict resolution.
1. The customer is always right. (Even when he or she isn’t.)
2. Treat all customers with dignity and respect, regardless of their behavior.
Maintain dignity and remind yourself that customers are not personally mad at you. They are angry with the situation.
3. Irate customers are not the enemy.
Avoid becoming emotionally hijacked.
4. A calm, generous demeanor is the most effective weapon against an irate customer.
Avoid getting sucked into an argument with a customer online. The customer can’t see your face or hear your soothing voice. Relax and take your time responding.
5. Politeness is the most effective weapon against a rude customer.
6. Recruit your customer into helping you craft a solution.
Ask, “How can I help?” Rephrase the sentence into, “What can I do right now to fix the problem?” Your goal is to get them to shift from complaining to solving.
7. Apologize, even if you don’t have a reason to express regret.
“I’m sorry that your experience has not been good with us.” Remember, everyone is watching.
8. If the customer’s request is unreasonable, apologize and offer an alternative.
If the customer doesn’t really want your help, excuse yourself from the conversation. Respond with, “I’m sorry. I don’t know how to help you.” You can always ask to take the conversation offline. Just know that many people following the conversation want to see how it’s resolved.
For more information, read Olivier Blanchard’s Social Media ROI and the chapter on Real Time Digital Support.
What are some other tips dealing with online irritated customers? Why are many organizations refusing to listen to the online digital bell when it rings?
Filed Under: Social Media
The Orlando World Center Marriott featured in the Wall Street journal for doing what you are talking about in this article.
Thanks for sharing. Great example for sure!
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