It all begins with one bad review. No, not bad. Catastrophic. Your phone goes off, and you see a Facebook comment from a customer that that could destroy your brand’s reputation. Your heart begins to race, and you check Twitter. It’s there too. You are now in crisis mode. This customer is quite upset and has taken to Instagram, Yelp, and all other social media forums to blast your company.
If this has ever been a fear of yours, read on. I am going to share with you exactly HOW to handle this situation to minimize the damage.
You will begin to feel as though you are holding your breath, waiting to see what happens. Wondering how in the world to extinguish this small flame before it becomes a firestorm.
I’ve been through a social media crisis, and this is exactly how it feels. It happened to a client of mine several years ago when a photo was splashed all over social media by an upset customer. **Note: we didn’t know it, but the photo would turn out to be a misrepresentation of the situation. This was a relief, but ultimately did not relieve us from handling the situation in the meantime.
Here are the steps you need to take when you are confronted with a social media crisis:
1. Sincerely Apologize: I cannot stress this enough. Most of the time an apology from the brand will satisfy the upset customer. Do not automate your apologies or trust them with an intern. Think of this as your best opportunity to create good PR out of a bad situation. Here are some of the best social media apologies I have seen (and here are some of the worst!) to help you understand what they look like.
If the situation is appropriate, it can be helpful to mention that you are beginning an “internal investigation”. This can be as simple as calling managers/workers to ask questions, or calling in some type of government agency in order to help determine the source of this issue.
2. Investigation: As the apology step mentions, now it’s time to investigate. However, as well as your company’s internal investigation, this is the time to investigate the complainant. There are three key things you need to look for.
- Verify that they purchased. This can be as simple as requesting a receipt. The reason behind this is to make sure they aren’t just scamming small businesses to get freebies. It’s not super common, but these people do exist!
- Look into their social media history. Do they have a history of complaining? Are they quick to insult businesses on social media? If so, rest assured, you are not the first they have mentioned with negativity.
- Learn more about why they complained. Are they willing to share more information about their experience? Can you learn from their experience?
3. Take Action: Use this as an opportunity to learn about areas for growth within your business. Do you create products but lack in customer service? Does your company need to reformat one of your service offerings?
While not all complaints are valid (some claim that 40% of your customers will inevitably be unsatisfied) use this as a time to strengthen your business. Have your satisfied customers take surveys in exchange for a free gift or discount. Learn how you can turn them into RAVING fans by asking them what they would like to see from your company.
4. Go Public: Now’s the time to tell everyone how your company plans on making things right. An incredible example of this was Domino’s turnaround campaign. They continually owned the mantra “we can do better” and used it as a launching point for success. Their campaign lead to amazing profits and an overall growth for the company.
This is also the premise of Undercover Boss, a TV show based on companies turning bad reviews (internally and from customers) into a public decree of their dedication to improvement.
5. Breathe: Ok, so this should really be the first step. The negative postings and/or crisis will pass. It may feel like you wont survive the negativity surrounding a social media complaint, but I promise you many have survived and thrived. Monitor all social media feeds (or hire a social media expert to handle it while you relax) and find a way to think positive thoughts.
These are the steps I handled for my first experience, and we not only survived, (now the company has experienced 50% store growth since that firestorm two years ago!) but thrived. These steps will help you to navigate social media negativity, and empower you through the process.