Why complaining on Social Media works

Almost everyone that use Social Media has at some time seen this comment on a post. “Complaining on Social Media doesn’t work.” or “Go talk to the manager”. Or, “Complaining on Social Media is a waste of time”.

I have come to the conclusion that people that regularly say this, and probably believe this, are the same people who would ignore social media complaints if their business were at the receiving end. They won’t respond and, in some cases, even verbally attack the complainant on Social Media if they dared make a negative remark about their business or service. These people react badly to negative criticism or complaints and then assume that all business owners feel the same way. It’s a classic example of confirmation bias and ignorance.

The irony is that almost every single one of the people that say complaining on Social Media does not work, have themselves complained on Social Media at some point. You then have to question their motives and herein lies the crux of the matter.

Many people that are opposed to complaints on Soicial Media have friends that own businesses that give poor service and are regularly on the receiving end of complaints. Inevitably they want to protect their friends. What they don’t realise is that they are not being good friends and they are doing these businesses more damage than good. Businesses that receive many complaints get these complaints because they provide bad service. It’s really as simple as that. There is no other motivation for people to bother to complain on Social Media and in 99.9% of the cases these complaints are valid.

Let me reiterate. Complaining on Social media works. It gets results. All the time.

If you’re tired of being treated poorly by retailers, airlines and other service-industry types, take revenge via social media. You will get heard, and get action.

Whether it’s a bad experience with a brand or receiving a faulty product, 67 percent of consumers have at some point contacted a business through its social media channels to provide negative feedback.

“There is a tremendous echo in social-media channels,” said Thomas Sclafani, a spokesman for American Express, which found in a recent survey that consumers who use social media to get a company’s attention wield a much bigger stick than those who don’t.

That’s because, beyond the broader audience who might see a complaint on, say, Facebook or Twitter, people who use social media to voice their discontent are much likelier to also talk to people directly about the problem, compared with someone who simply calls the customer-service center.

Social media-ites, according to the American Express survey, will directly tell 53 people about bad customer-service experiences, who will tell their friends who will tell their friends and so on.

Those who don’t use social media tell only 17 people they’re unhappy with a service, compared with the 24 people that the general population tells.

The same is true for good experiences, by the way. Social-media users tell 42 people they were thrilled with some service versus the nine people told by those who don’t use social media and the 15 people with whom the general population confides.

Overwhelmingly, consumers still take the traditional face-to-face and phone route to speak to real, live people to make complaints, according to American Express’s annual Global Customer Service Barometer. But they’re getting better results when they amplify that complaint on a widely used social-media site like Facebook or Twitter.

Not sure if you need to worry about this? Maybe these stats can convince you to boost your social service efforts:

  • Customers are likely to spend 20 to 40 percent more with a business after a successful social customer service experience.
  • Brands can see as much as three times more potential revenue from resolved negative issues on social media than revenue brought in just from positive reviews.
  • Nearly three-quarters (71 percent) of individuals who have a good social customer service experience are more likely to recommend a business to others.

These numbers may sway you to bolster your customer service on social sites, but let’s look at some real examples of social media customer service, and how they helped or hurt the respective brands.

Success stories

Call it the power of the people online. It manifested late last year when Molly Katchpole, the then-22-year-old part-time nanny took on the mighty Bank of America’s efforts to tag $5 debit-card fees on customers.

The 300,000-strong signatures on her Change.org petition—not to mention the scores of unsigned sympathizers—forced the nation’s largest bank and its competitors to back off from charging people to spend their own money.

When Verizon attempted to levy a $2 online-payment fee. More than 130,000 signatures made it to that petition in 24 hours, and the company backed down.

There have been other outrages publicized via social media. Take the Canadian songwriter who came up against United Airlines when it wouldn’t cover his $3,500 guitar that was broken by baggage handlers. His humorous protest “United Breaks Guitars” went viral on YouTube and prompted United to give him a one-time licensing fee to use his video in its customer-service training.

Turn negative into positive

So what do you do when you get that dreaded negative comment on your company Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or other page? Well, obviously whatever you do, don’t follow the lead of Pigalle’s manager. Instead, focus on the strategies below to ensure you’re providing an exceptional service experience online no matter how negative the feedback is.

Don’t ignore it: If you decide to ignore a negative comment, it’s not going to go away. In fact, failing to provide an answer to a customer’s issue on social media can increase your churn rate by 15 percent. Address the comment, find out what the issue is and work to resolve it.

Throw out the script: People know a canned response when they see one. Don’t rely on scripted answers for customer issues. This makes your brand appear robotic, and customers may think you are not focused on individually connecting with them.

Listen and empathize: Customers want to feel like they are heard, so take the time to listen (or read) their concerns. Empathizing with their problems (much like JetBlue did) goes a long way to keeping them as loyal patrons in the future. You can even have fun with it, if the situation warrants a bit of humor.

Watch the clock: As evidenced by the British Airways example, customers want their issues resolved – or at least addressed – within a reasonable time frame. Make sure you respond to negative feedback in a timely manner. Even if you can’t offer a solution right away, acknowledging the comment helps turn negative feedback into a positive experience.

Learn from it: All of your efforts are for nothing if you don’t take what you’ve learned and apply it going forward. If you’re getting the same negative comments over and over, that shows your brand isn’t doing anything to fix the problem, and potential customers will be turned off.

Negative feedback on social media can be scary, but it doesn’t have to hurt you. By taking the right steps, you can turn what might look like a bad situation and into a positive one – for both your company and your customers.