Brands are increasingly becoming ”humanized” now with the integration of social media in our every day lives and I personally think it’s great. I love the fact that if I have a question about a local business I can just look up that business’ information on Facebook or shoot them a quick tweet to ask a question. I now find myself bypassing the Google route and head to social networks for information on a business when I want it asap. Some businesses obviously do better than others but it may just be a matter of time before we all use social networks as a real-time information directory and a direct connection to our favorite brands and local spots.
I become elated when a small business or even a large brand will notice my mention (whether it’s direct or passive) and in turn thanks me for my patronage or for purchasing their product. It feels good to be appreciated, right? Yup. With every client that I work with, I make a point to thank each customer who has publicly noted on a social network that they’ve done business with that client. I want to make sure that each of those customers will return and even recommend my clients to their friends as well. Social Media Marketing and Customer Service go hand in hand now and although I normally feel that this opportunity to reach customers directly is a great thing it is certain that you won’t be able to please everyone.
While I worked for ESPNU, there were always sports fans who would curse at certain tweets or on our Facebook page because… well, because they had nothing better to do. As soon as you create a public account on any social network you are handing each person who encounters your brand a huge megaphone. And that thing can reach hundreds, thousands or millions of people. So before creating a social media campaign, you must be prepared for the best (which is usually extremely gratifying) and unfortunately, the worst, as well.
I ran a small campaign for a giveaway for a client last week and one of the people who won the giveaway had actually never even been to my client’s business before. After hearing the news that he had won the tickets, this new customer posted this piece of gratitude on the Facebook page:
“Wanted to say thank you again for the tickets. We had a great time and it was a great show. Neither of us had been there before but you have a couple extra patrons from here forward. The beers were great and our food was even better! Thanks again!”
With this promotion (that cost us barely nothing), my client gained at least 2 new, ecstatic customers and probably even more from, hopefully, word-of-mouth, as well as a raving review that is publicly visible on the Facebook page for the other thousands of Facebook fans to see. It feels good when social media actually works well.
But then, there are times when it just doesn’t. I am all for calling out a business online publicly if they’ve been completely out of line but typically, if I’m giving a brand a shout out, it’s because I love them and their service. Unfortunately, there are many people who have found Twitter, Facebook, Google +, etc, to be a megaphone for amplifying their MANY complaints. With my clients, I handle “crisis” situations as quickly, professionally and as friendly as possible. The customer is NOT always right as the saying goes, but if a customer is complaining, usually it’s because something has failed in the business model that shouldn’t have (think airlines – Yikes!) and that problem should be addressed online just as it would be in person or over the phone.
In a newer situation with a client, a customer complained of not getting service fast enough and she did it through several tweets to her couple hundred followers. To make a longer story short, I quickly responded with a sincere apology and notified the owner of the issue. After hearing more of the situation from the ground level, it appeared that this customer was just not going to be satisfied. I explained to her through Twitter that sometimes some unexpected crowds can cause slower service and apologized once again and encouraged her to return another time. The customer responded a day later saying that she was appreciative of the response but she would probably not return, that she hoped we had other people who actually did like us and that there were “alternatives”.
I understand that this customer was upset but after realizing there was no chance of me appeasing her, I backed off. We lost her. And that was fine. I know that sounds crazy but you’re not going to please everyone. Because the customer was snarky, I didn’t press the issue further, nor did I continue to try to resolve the situation. I could immediately tell that she was just in it for the drama. And I, as a business professional and representative of my clients, am not. Social Media is a great tool for brands of all sizes but I personally do not think that just because we have given our customers “social megaphones” does not mean that we should bend over backwards, kissing ass to everyone that passively complains in the social space just HOPING that their followers will jump into the drama gossip fest. I could have begged this person to return to my client’s business but I didn’t. I simply moved on from the situation and focused on the customers who would be and are reasonable.
Am I wrong for feeling like there should be a line drawn for how we interact with business and brands online? After all, it’s not just a computer you’re talking to.. it’s a PERSON behind those brands and some of the things that you say could be very hurtful. Next time, you think about mentioning a brand online in a complaint, think about what you want to get out of the situation and offer advice to the brand of how they can fix the situation. Maybe then the business will actually learn from their mistake and you’ll get a sense of accomplishment in knowing that you’ve used a tool to effectively have your voice heard.