Are You Taking Good Care of Your Customers on Twitter?

Did you know that people are twice as likely to share a negative interaction as a positive one? Also, did you know that a whopping 95 percent of the people who are upset with your company won’t let you know? It’s true … even with the ease of contacting your company through social media, only 5 percent of your customers will do it. So it almost goes without saying that when someone does take the time to complain, don’t you dare ignore it! So how do you handle customer complaints when they come through on Twitter?

There are currently about 1.3 billion Twitter accounts, but they estimate that “only” 320 million are active. (Source: Business Insider) In the age of smartphones and social media, people are quick to tweet about your business when things go wrong. Luckily, a negative tweet doesn’t have to be a disaster for your business.

Lithium cites a study they commissioned that found 53 percent of Twitter users expect a reply from a company to their tweet within an hour. That figure skyrockets to 72 percent for people who have a complaint. The repercussions of not responding quickly, according to the study, can be intense as 38 percent feel more negative about the brand and a full 60 percent will take unpleasant actions to express their dissatisfaction.

Unhappy customers are quick to escalate their negativity online. At best, they simply won’t buy from you any longer. At worst, they take their gripes public and shame your brand on social media. In fact, most of them think flaming you online eventually leads to better customer service. Unfortunately, in extreme cases, the damage done can be irreparable.

If you don’t believe that, what is the first thing you think of when someone says, “United Airlines”? Yep … it’s probably a customer getting forcibly dragged off an airplane because the airline overbooked a flight.

Here are three simple, but effective, steps for answering customer complaints or negative reviews on Twitter:

  1. Analyze

The first thing you must do before typing even one character in your reply is to thoroughly analyze what the person on the other end is complaining about. Reading tweets all day can get mind-numbing, so when you finally see a negative tweet aimed at your company, it can be especially frustrating. Especially if you feel the tweet is unfair.

Don’t take any tweet personally.  Let me repeat that … you cannot take it personally! Take a step back, a deep breath, and a few minutes if you need to calm down. The worst thing you can do is fire back with a defensive or emotional tone and worsen the problem.

Now that you’re calm, analyze what is being said. What EXACTLY is the person upset with. In the seminar business, probably 95 percent of the complaints we get are about things that we have absolutely no control over. We hold our seminars in hotels and conference centers around the country, and the vast majority of complaints we get have to do with the temperature of the meeting room (we have no control over that), the traffic around the meeting place (sorry … not our fault), or the weather being bad in the winter (sorry, we left our magic weather wands at home).

In cases like the ones above, a quick tweet acknowledging their problem, a bit of clarification about what control we have over the situation, and some suggestions for how they can avoid the problem the next time (bring a light sweater if you’re cold … leave a little earlier if traffic is a problem … and keep an eye on the local weather forecasts a couple days before the seminar). Then, we thank them for being a valued customer.

However, when the complaint is something we do have control over, we quickly. But sometimes we need more information. 140 characters is not a lot to work with, so it’s best to gather all the information you can from their initial tweet. Look at their Twitter profile to see if it offers any more information about them, their position, their conversation style, and what’s important to them.

  1. Respond and Apologize

Always, always, always put yourself in your customer’s shoes. You may think their tweet is unjustified, but they obviously don’t. Remember … only 5 percent of people write you to complain, so accept the fact that they feel like they’ve been wronged in some way.

To have a customer or client feel that way, for any reason, is a big deal. There’s always room for improvement and this tweet may be a sign of that. If you need more information, send them a tweet with an apology and ask them for the additional information you need to correct the problem.

Say something like, “I’m so sorry you had this problem! Please email me at [your email address] with more details so I can investigate this for you!” Using “I’m” and “me” makes this a one-on-one conversation which makes customers happier. They want to deal with a person that can solve their problem and NOT a corporation.

Hopefully, the customer will take the issue offline through email and that will be the end of it on Twitter. You don’t want to air dirty laundry and details out over social media. However, the upside is that anyone else reading the tweets sees a company that responded quickly, personally, and professionally to a dissatisfied customer and promised a resolution. That can do nothing but benefit your brand online.

Sometimes a customer complains about a company policy, process or procedure and there’s no way to get around the problem. When this happens, avoid sending a canned “Sorry, but that’s our policy” tweet will only make the matter worse. Again, think back to how United initially responded to the outcry over the passenger getting dragged off the plane.

Avoid using the word “policy” because that is loaded with negative connotations for most people. However, explain the reasoning behind the policy if you can. For instance, say “I’m sorry for any frustration! This is in place for the privacy & security of our customers’ information.”

Oftentimes, when you explain the reasoning behind an undesired process—especially when that reason is for your customer’s benefit—they’ll be more understanding and willing to work with you.

  1. Resolve the issue

Whatever you have told your customer that you’re going to do … do it. There might be times when you’ve researched the problem and you may not be able to do exactly what the customer wants, but keep communication open. There are many things you can do to please a customer, depending on your business. Freebies, discounts, and other goodwill gestures show that you value them and their business. Most of the time, these actions work.

As we said before, keep as much of the process visible on social media as possible. All customers are looking for the companies that make them feel valued and that original negative tweet you got is an opportunity to show off how responsive and authentic your brand and business can be.


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