When you complain to or about a company or brand on social media, sometimes you’re just venting and sometimes you are expecting a legitimate response because for some reason we think that’s an acceptable method of communicating our grievances now. Sometimes you want to offer unsolicited advice, which if reacted to makes you feel good but if ignored shouldn’t make you feel bad. After all, it was unsolicited and no one is obliged to listen to your advice if they didn’t ask for it.
In any case, most of the time what customers are seeking when they complain, and especially if they’re just venting, is to hear “We’re sorry.” Maybe the company can’t fix your problem and sometimes all they can do is acknowledge your frustration. Who knows, that may be all you were looking for. Humanizing that response is far superior to offering a form letter reply, because form letters don’t help anyone believe that you really care about their issues. Note that a form letter style of reply is different from a template. Often, the same information should be conveyed as part of your organization’s response, so having similar paragraphs within personalized letters or emails is understandable and acceptable.
I am writing this post as a follow-up to my post about customer service and marketing miscues. I thought it might be of interest to see what reactions I received to my initial customer service complaints and the resulting post about them.
So, in the order established in that other post, here are the reactions:
- After my post mentioned Walmart and it’s pro-American worker commercial with a theme song by a Canadian band, nothing official happened, although a couple of days after the post ran, I heard from a local lobbyist who works for them. He said “my post did not go unnoticed” and he was sharing it with HQ in Bentonville. That’s actually more than I expected.
- The credit card company got back to me within a few days of my email complaining to them, noting that the offer indeed was legitimate but that they couldn’t do more for me without having me log in to their secure server. At least there wasn’t a link for me to follow or be concerned about. This was one of those cases where they included a template of security tips gobbledygook in the reply, but I understand why.
- I’ve heard nothing from the local newspaper, and I rarely hear anything from the media when I complain as a routine member of the public instead of as a press secretary. Granted, the Lansing State Journal was in my post but I did not contact them directly. I suppose maybe no one in that organization is monitoring Google for mentions. It’s a position they should seriously consider adding if they want to truly be a part of the entire local community, both offline and on.
- Believe it or not, one of the better responses came from Comcast, which I complained about the loudest. The main corporate account didn’t respond, but within minutes of tagging Comcast Cares on Google+, I had a very human response from an employee that said they don’t have an ETA on when the feature I’m looking for would be available. She even added a frowny face emoticon. Nothing says a human replied like an emoticon; it’s better than a bot or a customer service person ordered to use standard company language.
- I already posted in my earlier blog entry about how the Lansing Board of Water and Light is embroiled in a PR crisis and unlikely to exit unscathed anytime soon. I haven’t heard from them but I didn’t expect a response because, quite honestly, they have much bigger things to worry about than my rantings.
- And the Meijer store manager responded to my original complaint with a lackluster answer that only made me more frustrated, which is how they ended up in my other blog post originally.
So, a few observations:
- If customers contact you directly, respond! It’s fine for an automated response to acknowledge receipt of an email, that way someone isn’t waiting and wondering. But the real reply needs to be sincere and from a real human, not a bot or an automaton spouting propaganda.
- Monitor pings of your brand or organization online. It’s not that hard and, if you use a service like Google Alerts, it’s free! Just because they don’t contact you directly doesn’t mean people aren’t complaining about you. In fact, it may be worse because instead of a private outreach, they are publicly saying things that you should respond to but probably aren’t.
- In whatever response you offer, send along an “I’m sorry.” It may not seem like much but it can go a long way. If nothing else, you should at least be sorry that the customer had to make an extra effort to reach out to you because of a problem. That’s time they could have spent saying nice things about you, or nothing at all, which is preferable to a few choice words surrounding your brand name.