This is a guest blog post - details at the end.
"[Salon Name] gives cute, trendy, cutting-edge services. I think it's so sad when insecure people are intimidated by beautiful people. This salon just isn't for people like you."
You can't change the fact that customers like myself are more inclined to share a negative experience than a positive one. What you can do is prevent such an experience from getting amplified online. This is particularly important in today's socialized world, where consumers have a plethora of outlets for doing so. Not to mention the written, shareable documentation of these interactions.
This month, customer service guru, keynote speaker and author Micah Solomon shared his tips for handling negative feedback more gracefully than my one-time stylist. The following is a summary of his tenets for handling social response under fire.
Take a Customer Service Point-of-View
Customer service agents are trained how to listen and respond empathetically no matter how unreasonable or annoyed the caller. Social media response should mimic this personality. More often than not, companies employ a social media or community manager to respond on Facebook, Twitter and other channels.
While technically savvy, these personality types won't necessarily prioritize responding to complaints. They are focused on pushing promotions and drumming up fans and followers. Worse, when they do respond they won't treat the interaction like a service complaint. The concern won't be fully addressed, or the response might come off more like a marketing pitch.
Be Mindful to Avoid Streisand Effect
The biggest risk businesses face when responding on social is the propensity for the bad news to travel further faster. This potential even has a name: the Streisand Effect, after actress and singer Barbra Streisand.
While our first inclination might be to call a lawyer or passive aggressively retaliate online, think carefully before taking that course of action. Just ask Streisand. She sued a photographer in a failed attempt to remove an online photo of her precariously-sited mansion. The story ended up going viral and showed up on everything from t-shirts to coffee mugs. There's even a Wikipedia page about the incident.
The moral of the story is don't end up with a permanent, publicly-recorded blemish on your record because of a nasty reaction online. It won't soon disappear. Make sure everybody who represents your company online has taken the time to learn how to slow down, breathe, and bite their tongue - consistently.
Convert Negative into the Positive
So what should you do when faced with a negative mention on social media? Reach out directly and kill them with kindness.
When faced with a negative accusation, your team should respond with a positive, thoughtful message. This often surprises the online critic so much they actually convert into an advocate. At the very least, it can mitigate the Streisand Effect.
If the message comes from a follower, fan or in your database, take the conversation off of social. Include your real, monitored email address, phone number and even address so they know you are sincere in your outreach. You want to get this issue solved.
If the person is not a connection, reply publicly in the same forum they used. At the same time, be sure to provide offline ways to reach you. And of course express sincere regret and concern.
Respond as Immediately as Possible
The amplification of social media embarrassment is proportionate to the delay in getting a response. A negative incident online gathers social steam with such speed that your delay can become more of a problem than the initial incident. Even a few hours delay can be catastrophic.
To avoid this fiasco, set response time standards for customer service social responders. For companies that receive thousands of social mentions and messages a day, a customer service software that can be useful for automatically prioritizing and routing negative comments. These systems can be programmed to pick up messages with keywords such as "mad," "upset," "Fail," angry and so on. Then automatically reroute these messages to another agent if it isn't acted on right away.
Finally, come up with a placeholder response if more time is needed to devise a more strategic answer. Tell your agents when, why and for how long a placeholder response can be used.
These are just a few best practices your team can use to effectively manage heated interactions on social media. What other ways does your team stay cool under fire? Join the conversation with a comment here.
Editor's Note: Micah provided these tips and Software Advice Analyst Ashley Verrill wrote about them here. Thanks to Ashley for the article.