The rise of consumer-business interactions in online settings is on the increase. According to a 2012 Sitel Study, 71% of 16-24 year olds go online when they have a problem with a product and 67% of 23,000 consumers in a J.D. Power and Associates study had used a company's social media site for servicing their personal issues.
This is a big change for businesses. The newfound ability for consumers to directly target a company in a public forum means they can air their grievances instantly with everyone watching on the sidelines. Social media has removed the one thing that has previously allowed many companies to avoid public embarrassment for their PR issues…a place to hide.
Social media outlets provide a platform for consumers to call out various companies on their behaviour in the marketplace. Even if the company deletes the comments from their particular page, complaints will eventually be heard.
This could seem daunting for businesses who are not willing to step up to the challenge of changing consumer behaviour. But this new phenomenon shouldn’t be seen in this way. This paradigm is a Darwinian mechanism that weeds out the weaker companies from the stronger ones.
So how should your company deal with this new environment?
Rise to the occasion
The intuitive reaction to negative comments against your business is to silence them. There is a fear that giving negative comments any attention will in some way validate what your company has ‘supposedly’ done wrong. This is true, but so will ignoring them. According to SocialMediaToday, 32% of consumers using social media for customer service expect a response within 30 minutes, meaning no response (or even a delayed response) will only serve to antagonize the customer further.
Most companies have the “ignoring” philosophy, so people are used to being ignored. Responding to the customer’s issue in a positive way will actually serve to differentiate you from your competition and add credibility to your company.
87% of consumers in the J.D. Power and Associates study said their online social interaction with the company positively impacted the likelihood that they'll purchase from the brand, and that the responsiveness of the service representatives were a key part of that satisfaction.
In an online showdown, people are watching the interaction play out. If they see you ignore a customer, it only validates the customer’s complaint further. Tackling the issue head on will showcase to the social media audience that you genuinely care about your customers. You turn the situation around in front of everyone and your public shaming completely flips.
Use it as a learning tool
Chances are that if you’re getting continuous complaints on the same issues on your social media pages, there is a serious problem with your business. Use this as an opportunity to change something about the way your business operates. The people who complain are unknowingly providing you a great service – they are giving you free market research.
Generally, most large company stakeholders don’t get the opportunity to hear direct comments about their business from their customers. Traditional market research in the form of surveys and polls often give an impersonal or diluted form of the customers’ sentiments about the business.
Social media provides you with instantaneous feedback on the choices you make for your business. You are able to see if what you are doing is working or not – and quicker than ever. There is no limit to the potential of this new ability.
In summary, businesses should use this new online environment as a tool to grow and customers should use it as a tool to be heard.
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