When customers go Rogue on social media.

Every corporation has its flaws.

These flaws could be with the pricing and/or quality of the products being provided, internal processes, staff product training/familiarisation, or even the way payments are received/processed.

Most corporations recognise and manage the concerns through their compliance and risk departments, however there are sometimes flaws within an organisation that become visible to the public and can result in brand and reputational damage.

It’s every corporations’ worst nightmare when a customer goes rogue on social media.

Surprisingly (to some), studies show that most customers DON’T vent on social media on the first occurrence of an issue.

Through our experience, customers normally go through many months (or years) of ongoing issues and attempts for resolution, before they go public their story.

The majority of consumers will try resolving the matter at the place of purchase (or online).

If that isn’t successful, they might even attempt to escalate to head office if they can find the suitable contact details.

Failing this, customers will start telling their friends and searching for other solutions which may involve their local office of Fair Trading or other government provided consumer resolutions department.

In many countries, these government departments can only offer guidance… any enforcement of an outcome normally relies on legal proceedings… and this is when things can turn nasty.

A once-happy customer is now looking down the barrel of expensive, time consuming and stressful court action… or… venting on social media…

Guess what they normally do first…

The majority of complaints we help with are just “starting to boil” on social media.

The consumer has lost faith in the product or brand and is starting to vent.

Depending on the significance of the problem, others will join in the conversation and the isolated incident soon becomes a melting pot of other customers sharing their similar stories and bringing the brand into disrepute.

Resolution paths suggested by others often include contacting the local news, radio or council, with many people also suggesting physically blocking the entrance to the business, personal harm and property damage… none of these options are good for an organisation.

Our recommendations are as follows:

  1. Handle all complaints as if they’re already in the news.
  2. Deploy “listening tools” to ensure you’re aware of anything that’s already starting to appear on public forums.
  3. Ensure the customer is kept updated every step of the way – call them back when promised, even if you have no update to give.
  4. Learn from this experience and review/update internal processes/systems/training to handle this type of complaint faster in future cases.
  5. Consider product quality control improvements.
  6. “Wow” your customer with a genuine apology and offer to resolve the issue once and for all.

Remember that your customer has gone through an internal process in their decision to purchase from you (eg is the product/brand trustworthy, will the customer be viewed differently by their peers if they buy from you, will there be adequate support if things go wrong etc) and a failing product or service is undermining their own decision-making process.

Ashton Wood.