Bad News Travels Fast: Why Social Media Needs to Be a Part of Your Support Strategy

May 16, 2011

A new study by loyalty-marketing company COLLOQUY proves the truism that consumers are more likely to complain far and wide about a bad experience than they are to share the news about a good one. In fact, 26% of the people surveyed said that they were far more likely to spread the negative word.

Of course, social media only amplifies this tendency – where before someone might have griped about bad service to a few coworkers and their immediate family, they can now tweet it to thousands of people in an instant. Social media tools such as Facebook and Twitter are now significant channels for customer support. Almost 20% of people using Twitter seek customer support from a business each month, and 61% seek information about products or services, according to a social media survey conducted by TSIA. And the increase is happening in both B2B and B2C scenarios.

My own Facebook news feed ticks off complaints about numerous airlines, a bank, the Weather Channel, and a phone company that shall remain nameless but whose hold music was cataloged over the course of an hour and thirty minutes via status update (Why must you taunt me with Katy Perry and your lies that my call is important to you?!)

Interestingly, the COLLOQUY survey showed that “even among consumers who are most loyal to, engaged with and willing to recommend brands they like…31% said they are far more likely to share information about a bad experience with a product or service than a good one.” In other words, people who were once a brand’s biggest advocates are even more likely than others to report a bad experience to the world.

So, given that even your biggest fans have the tendency to blab when things go wrong, what’s a company to do when bad news goes viral? Neal Schaffer, President of social media consultancy Windmills Marketing, says that while companies may not need to respond publicly to every complaint, they do need to pay attention to the conversation to plan a strategy.

This is why we were quick to launch our Zendesk for Twitter integration, which enables agents to perform a wide variety of Twitter functions without ever leaving Zendesk’s interface. They can monitor saved search streams, convert tweets to Zendesk tickets (known as ‘twickets’), and process multiple tweets simultaneously with bulk actions. They can also e-tweet as appropriate from within Zendesk and follow-up with direct-message conversations on Twitter. Support and Twitter are consolidated into a seamless and singular workflow.

In addition, for agents who wish to create Zendesk tickets using their favorite Twitter clients, Zendesk supports additional clients in the Twitter ecosystem, including Seesmic, TwitterFeed, MarketMeSuite and Media Funnel.

Hey, if you do not meet your customers where they are, your competitor will.

“You can’t please everyone, but you need to be monitoring the situation by using social media monitoring tools. Look at who is saying what, what is their social media influence, and how many people are “Liking” or retweeting the information,” Schaffer says. He recommends the intervention begin in the same place as the complaint did, but also suggests creating your own YouTube video as well as posting on your own corporate blogs as powerful ways for a company to put out their own side of the story and apologize if need be.

Randi Busse, president of customer service consultancy Workforce Development Group, thinks companies should get to the root of the issue. “Customers are going to talk whether their experience is good or their experience is bad,” she says. “The stories they tell are based on the experiences they have with your employees. If you want the stories they tell to be good ones, you have to ensure that your employees are educated in how to delight the customer. If you leave it to chance that employees KNOW what that means, you are leaving yourself open to needing to do damage control.”

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