One topic that continues to heat up around the world is customer complaints management. Whether you run a small ‘mom and pop’ style corner store, a reasonably busy Indian takeaway or even a large corporate agency, this is something that should be top of mind when dealing with any and all customers. And for well-known brands with strong social presence, this is even more important. Sadly however, despite increased education and accessibility to tools that help manage this side of business, there are still far too many companies (and even big brands) who insist on taking the DIY option instead of handling things properly and systematically. So why is it not such a good idea to go by the book when it comes to customer complaints management?
Customer Complaints Management Done Wrong
Social media today is filled with conversation – much like a very large, rather noisy cocktail event. While some conversations are happy and fun, others are less so. For customers with a grievance to air, the tone becomes far more angry and volatile. This is what we call a tipping point. How you as a company respond to that (very visible) anger that is directed via a complaint written on a Facebook wall for instance is what makes the difference between a quickly resolved issue and one that explodes into a PR nightmare. Let’s take a look at what can (and has) happened when complaints are managed haphazardly without any proper tools or reporting…
- Social Media Frenzy – popular US restaurant chain Applebee’s learned the hard way about proper crisis handling after a fiasco involving a rude customer, lack of tip, a mean note on a till slip, an Instagram picture, a fired serving employee and a very big support base. The brand’s attempt to ‘calm’ down the increasingly angry comments lead to a far bigger disaster. At the end of the day, whether or not the franchise acted fairly or not (and whatever the full story may have been), the lesson here is that it is all too easy for chaos to break out when a single person is responsible for complaints and customer feedback.
- Website Savvy – it’s not just franchises at risk of customer outrage. Some customers who have not felt that their complaints were handled properly have taken to the web to set up a website detailing their complaint. What this means is that people searching for the company instead find the customer-made website in search engines. Nissan South Africa, Sears US and even small accommodation establishments have all experienced this at some point over the past few years.
These two examples are obviously a ‘worst case’ scenario. Sadly though, the less obvious, less noisy outrages can be even more damaging to business. All it takes is one customer to share their bad experience with one other person, and news will quickly spread. Whether you take your customer feedback seriously, and handle it appropriately or you instead choose to handle it yourself ‘when you have time’ is up to you. But choosing the wrong option may well be a very expensive lesson in customer complaints management 101.