Customer Feedback: The Dangers of a Two Way Street

One of the greatest things about Social Media is the vast amount of feedback that you get from your users/customers. However, one of the great dangers of Social Media is that you give your detractors an equally large platform to share their negative feedback with not only you, but the rest of the world, as well.

The topic of dealing with negative feedback from customers that is provided via Social Media could very easily cover many blog posts (or perhaps even a book)…so expect that I revisit this topic from time to time.

Social Media changes corporate communications from communicating in a single direction, to a two-way conversation. Sometimes this “two-way street” can make you feel like you are standing in front of oncoming traffic.

Lately, several of my peers and colleagues have written about Social Media campaigns gone wrong. Notably Adam Cranfield “Know your enemy in social media” and Catherine Murray “Five of the worst international social media campaigns“.

A campaign gone wrong is one thing, but what about a good campaign that generates some (possibly?) deserved criticism?  The marketing department isn’t used to hearing this sort of negative feedback so directly…usually those comments go to the Customer Service or Technical Support departments.

Undesired feedback can be broken into a few categories which need to be handled differently, I’ve broken out a few of the most common types, and some suggestions on how each of these should be best handled.

The Angry User: Empathy, empathy, empathy.  And then redirect them to your customer service/technical support department.  When possible, I like to respond to the person directly (via email) and CC our manager of technical support, and make the introduction between that user and someone who gave give him/her the additional help that they may need.  I don’t recommend doing this until you have discussed this with the tech support manager, and developed an agreed on process.  I absolutely love seeing an angry post, that is followed up with one that says “Wow, Drew and the team, really helped me out!  Those guys know their stuff and now my product is working better than I ever expected!  Kudos to them!”   I also make sure that a few VPs in the company see those kudos, especially the ones that single a support person out by name.

The Conspiracy Theorist: You own a small pet food company in Wichita.  You source your materials and manufacture locally, and you sell your products to a couple of major chains.  Yet someone wants to accuse you of exploiting child workers in SE Asia, or dealing arms in the Middle East.   This user should be contacted via another channel (email, phone, private message, tweet, etc).  The more direct the conversation the better (IE-get this person on the phone, if at all possible).  If the allegations are completely unfounded, this is one of the few times that I think that deleting someones comments/posts may be warranted.

The Rabbit: You might have a campaign or discussion going on about “How you use our product to get your work done faster”, but there is someone that wants to talk about ‘why you don’t have Mac support’ or ‘how they used your product on vacation…and hey where do you like to go on vacation?’.  These might be great topics for another time.  Being proactive to steer the conversation back on track is essential.  Also, providing a new thread/feed/page/etc for their topic (if it is indeed a good topic) is a great way to get more feedback that can drive other future features/discussions.

The Foul Mouth: Everyone likes to hear that their product is awesome.  An enthusiastic person might say that your product is “SO F–KING AWESOME!  IT KICKS THE S–T OUT OF PRODUCT X” (without those dashes).  Or they might use profanity to say how terrible you and your product are.  This is a slippery slope.  Editing someones posts can get you in a lot trouble in terms of credibility.  Deleting feedback based on content is also dangerous, because you don’t want to be labeled “the thought police”…that sort of reputation will drive the good customers away.  The best advice that I have is to be consistent.  If you have rules against profanity be consistent in applying them.  It doesn’t hurt to remind people of these rules when they come close to crossing a line.

The Insult Generator: This is the guy that attacks the other people making comments.  This simply cannot be tolerated.  I would treat this person in a similar manner as “The Conspiracy Theorist”.

Spammers: A good thread, discussion, etc can be derailed by promotions of “Acai Berry Juice and the Wonders of  Credit Crunch Solving Weight Loss Products”.  As a first step I recommend (if possible) blocking the use of some keywords.  Then proactive monitor for such activity, it may require the involvement of your IT department to block some IPs of the botnet that has decided to repeatedly visit you.

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