Defuse Dissatisfaction Online

Over the last 24 hours, I had the opportunity to experience one of the frustrating sides of social media.

Communication tools/channels/systems have evolved and friction (complexity, difficulty, cost) has been reduced; it’s easier than ever to proactively engage with your customers and try to make them happy or solve their problems.

Yesterday, my mom had a bad experience at the Eden Meander shopping mall. It angered me so I posted about it on Facebook. I posted publicly and tagged the Eden Meander page, giving the brand a chance to respond (by commenting on the post or sending me a private message), which they didn’t do.

I could have made more of an effort and contacted the mall during working hours (it was 19:49 when I published the post) or sent an email but I was frustrated and wanted the brand to respond quicker than they possibly would’ve via email.

Although social media is a great place to receive positive feedback, brands should be prepared to cope with negative feedback without getting confrontational.

My original post:

As you’ll see from the comments, it got a bit intense and people were rightfully angry because it’s downright discriminatory behaviour.

I found it entertaining how completely unrelated parties told me that something that had happened to my mom somehow did not happen. Is George entering the era of fake facts? What makes people think they can correct me about an incident they don’t know anything about?

Eden Meander turned on their computer for the day.

Eventually, midway through the day (keeping in mind social media doesn't sleep) the Eden Meander page decided to post something about the situation. Someone else copied the content and pasted it as a comment on my post.

Eden Meander’s post about the situation:

All the brand has done is issue a blanket Vaguebooking statement to say that “Motorcyclists are welcome”.

The world has changed; it is customer centric and with social media brands have direct access to engage with their clients in constructive dialogue.

The discussion started on Facebook so the brand could have sent me a private Facebook message to address the situation and try to ease my frustration.

If the person managing the Facebook page had made the effort to read the whole thread and not simply fire off a defensive shot he/she would have seen that my mom had also responded to my post. Eden Meander could have easily engaged my mom directly but did not make the effort.

No one has apologised, offered an explanation, bothered to find out what exactly happened or addressed the specific events that occurred yesterday.

Eden Meander said we can follow up with them if we’re unhappy and they would love to “sit down and chat”. It’s not the consumer’s responsibility to follow up with a business, or try to make the business happy, or resolve a frustrating situation. It’s the responsibility of the business to engage with the customer and go out of its way to try resolve conflicts and make customers happy. This is commonly referred to as customer service.

Observations

Complaining online doesn’t always help in the ways you think it will because the people monitoring the social media accounts appear not to care or don’t seem to take the time to listen to understand; they seem to only be interested in responding. It could also be that they’re simply not equipped to deal with the situations professionally in terms of training, experience, emotional intelligence etc.

Complaining seems to get other people angry and give trolls something to engage on.

However, the post must have made an impact. We went to the mall this afternoon and noticed more than one normal parking bay occupied by a motorcycle which was prohibited yesterday.

As consumers, how should we deal with negative/bad/unpleasant situations/experiences in future?

I’m not sure what the right approach is.

Personally, I’ll probably still make the effort to complain if I think the business will be receptive to the complaint, but if I don’t think it will be I’ll probably do what I’ve done with other businesses in George that have given bad service - boycott them. It sucks boycotting a business with a good product and bad customer service because George has limited options as it is but at least I’m not supporting a business that doesn’t truly care about the customers it is dependent on for its survival.

Lessons for businesses

Social media is a 24 hour job and a simple issue can get blown out of proportion if you don’t address it quickly and professionally.

Address a complaint directly and don’t make resolving a complaint a customer’s responsibility.

Management of a business may have the best intentions but consumers develop opinions about a brand based on their experiences engaging with first line staff and people on the ground. Don’t implement a policy without training your staff sufficiently.

Customer care/support staff should have the ability to empathise with customers. If someone does not have empathy or can’t fake it, she/he should not work in a support or customer facing role.

A complaint is an opportunity to build a better relationship with your customers. A customer who complains cares enough to give you the chance to resolve and rescue a situation, you might not have been aware of, and retain their business and potentially that of other customers who may not have been willing to make the effort to complain. A customer who does not complain and simply never comes back is lost revenue forever.