Once upon a time, you’d have had to pen a strongly-worded letter or pick up a phone and join a seemingly endless queue to make a customer complaint.
How times have changed. According to Clicky (2016), 25 per cent of social media users in the UK now make complaints via social channels.
Social media is VERY public and if someone posts negatively about your brand you are judged on several criteria: how quickly you respond, the tone of your reply and the ultimate outcome.
With the rise of social media making everyone a publisher in their own right and in such a public arena, brands big and small have to tread carefully. Even the simplest customer service blunder can hit the national headlines.
Case in point, last week, a local independent cafe deli became the subject of a Twitter storm in a teacup that quickly escalated into a tsunami.
When Steve Dempster, his wife and their 11-month-old-child got their receipt at Weetons of Harrogate they were shocked to see what the staff had added to it.
Steve shared a copy of the offending article which featured a message reading ‘small egg and tomato omelette for weird freak’ on his Twitter and Facebook.
They had simply wanted a smaller omelette for the baby who they were just starting to introduce to different foods. No big deal, right? Wrong, apparently. At least for one person who is probably currently looking for a new job, P45 in hand.
A new starter was being shown the ropes by a manager, who thought it would be funny (yes it’s just so hilarious) to add the note to the receipt before sending it to the kitchen. Little did they realise a copy of that receipt would end up in the Independent, the Daily Mail, The Sun, The Mirror, The Star, The Telegraph and Jeremy Vine’s Twitter feed to name a few.
Weetons is actually a great local indie and does a mean eggs Benedict but this case highlights how the silly actions of one individual can spiral out of control. That said, Weetons handled the situation well and issued an apology.
Its general manager, Keren Shaw said: “Unfortunately today one of our staff acted in an incredibly unprofessional way and we are extremely sorry.
“It is not the high level of service that we know our customers expect from us and which we expect from our staff.
“We have made a direct apology to the customer concerned and will be taking up the matter internally with the staff involved.” (Wouldn’t want to be in their shoes!)
As a social media storm could strike at any time, here are my top tips for dealing with negativity against your brand:
- Have one person dedicated to looking after social media complaints otherwise you run the risk of them slipping through the net and not being responded to which is the worst possible thing you can do!
- Respond quickly. Within 15 minutes is a good timeframe. Any longer and you’ll look like you don’t care. According to Lithium, 78 per cent of people who complain to a brand via Twitter expect a response within an hour.
- Be sincere and polite, never confrontational. Denial and taking it personally are also definite no nos. Remember the customer is always right 😉
- Thank them, apologise and try to take the conversation offline into a direct message.
- Never ever delete the complaint!
I think Weetons came off quite well out of this. They shouldn’t be giving jobs to people who can’t spell omelette in any case! But, on a more serious note, this example perfectly illustrates how one seemingly small customer service blunder can escalate from a single social media post to being picked up by a raft of national newspapers, and why it’s important to handle social media complaints carefully and quickly.