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Don’t you just love Twitter? With a simple hashtag, you can tell the whole world exactly how you feel! What about Facebook? All you do is post on a company’s wall and WHAM! Message received. Remember those pesky days of phone calls and emails? All the searching for the correct contact information, all the time spent explaining your issue, all the waiting… And for what? For only one person to hear your story!? Well, the game has changed. We are now able to rant about our customer service concerns to our friends, family and complete strangers with just 140 characters in a blink of an eye thanks to social media.

Every conversation that was once personal now has the potential to go public. How do I feel about my co-worker's quest to determine the level at which he is appreciated? (It gets better, @goggleboy. You'll always have #unicorns.) It's too much information, but the reality is that I still care... We all care. In this day and age, we can’t always control what is being said about our brands and where it's being said. As customer service representatives and marketing professionals, we have no choice but to join the conversation.  However, by following just a couple simple guidelines, you have the opportunity to convert almost any “@” into an opportunity to shine.

1. Elevate the positivity

This should be done for all mentions, positive or negative. A positive comment from a customer is a golden opportunity to spin a marketing message. Example:

Customer says: “@Gothamcityapartments- I love the online services you offer! Paying rent is so painless! #rentpaid #savingtime”

You can say: “@customer- Glad you love the service! We offer the best services because we love our tenants! #Gothamrentals #nojokers”

Anyone who reads this chain will love the testimonial, but they’ll be hooked by your marketing. A negative message is not as pleasant, but it can be turned positive as long as you’re patient.

Customer says: “@Gothamcityapartments- The stupid dishwasher broke! Now I’m stuck with a sink of dishes and no sponges. #stinkykitchen”

You can say: “@customer- That is the worst! Hurry and get that work order in so that we can get that mess cleaned up for you ASAP! #totherescue

That may not resolve the issue and you need to deliver, but it is one big step in the right direction.

2. It’s okay to defend, but it’s not okay to be defensive

I've worked in sales or service for a few years now and I've heard all kinds of accusations. Most of these are born from a seed of reality, but not all of them retain their integrity. As disappointing as it is to uncover false accusations, it’s far worse to publicly and stubbornly announce that a customer’s accusations are false. A small showing of empathy and a desire to assist can usually take the conversation in the right direction. If a customer becomes unreasonable, it is best to take the conversation off line with a firm statement. Hopefully it doesn't reach this point, but a good example of a difficult conversation on a company’s Facebook page might look like this:

Customer: “Your management is the worst! I know I paid my rent on time, but your office told me they have no record of my payment! Now they’re charging me a late fee and I don’t have enough money in my account to cover the fees. I am so mad!!! Nobody should ever rent here!”

After researching it you might say: “I am deeply concerned with your experience. We never want our tenants to have bad experiences like this. Give us a call or send us a message here (insert link) and we’ll work through this together.”

Hopefully the customer follows your directions and the conversation is over, but they might say: “I already called in and nobody would listen! You are all thieves!”

The temptation is to state policy or to defend the honor of your staff. This is okay, but make it a subtle byline of the reply sandwiched by empathy and action: “It sounds like you had a bad experience and we sincerely apologize. Our policy is to ask for a receipt or a show of payment, so I can see why the conversation was difficult. The best way to resolve this is to message me directly at this link (insert link again). I look forward to hearing from you.”

A public continuation of this conversation benefits no one. You may need to repeat the message to ensure privacy or to reiterate that you do want to help. How you handle the personal conversation is up to you. Try to keep any concessions private or else you risk opening the floodgates.

While not every conversation starts the way you’d like, my hope is that you can turn all of them in your favor. Following these two rules in a prompt manner is one way to ensure your customers see you the way you want to be seen!


By: Dennison Harris

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