Keeping cool when the heat is on

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In 2015, 85% of UK complaints to brands were made online. Dionne Kennedy looks at how brands can handle the heat and deal with complaints on social media.

We’ve all done it. We’ve all taken to the Internet to complain at least once in our lives. Whether it’s a whinge at your phone provider for poor coverage, dismay at a delayed flight or a good ol’ moan at your supermarket of choice, sometimes taking your frustration out on the web is more convenient than calling a customer helpline. Let’s face it – who wants to hear that awful hold music?

As a nation of moaners – The Ombudsman received over 150,000 complaints in 2015, that’s 20 every hour – it only makes sense that we take to our preferred channels to vent about poor service – and 85% of those complaints were made online, by email, online contact forms and the big one, social media.

So, with all this information right in front of you, and of course your personal experience (Own up! We know you’ve sent a cheeky tweet to the train service before…) it’s widely accepted that customers expect a response from your brand on social media. But how do you do this effectively?

At Equator, we work with several energy clients, and a recent challenge for our PR and Social team has been managing their reputations across social media. How do we do this? Read on to find out.

Know your audience

The first step to effective community management is knowing your audience. Who are the people using your channels? Whether they’re potential customers, or current customers looking for advice, their needs and wants are going to be different – your content should be focused towards the most common requirements.

E.ON Energy knows that customers quite often lose their prepayment card – so have created a simple, effective and fun way for customers to interact with the brand.

E.ON Energy knows that customers quite often lose their prepayment card – so have created a simple, effective and fun way for customers to interact with the brand.

Manage expectations

If you can address common issues on your social media channels before people even need to ask for help – bonus! Posting regular FAQs can stop people in their tracks and avoid poor interactions. For energy clients, this could be including info on customer helpline opening hours, advising how to submit meter readings, or top up your energy cards.

If customers know when your channels are monitored you can stop spiralling PR nightmares overnight. Managing expectations can also extend to how quickly you respond (a typical figure thrown around states that over 50% of customers expect a response within one hour) or exactly what you can help with e.g. For FAQs ‘we can help!’, or for bill queries ‘please contact our team on 00101010’.

British Gas operates a separate Twitter channel for customer help – leaving their standard channel free for educational and fun content

British Gas operates a separate Twitter channel for customer help – leaving their standard channel free for educational and fun content

Be human

There’s nothing worse than scrolling down Twitter and seeing a robotic response to customer’s queries. Try to personalise your response as much as possible – using customer’s names helps calm the situation and including your own name or initials also lets them know they’re not talking to a machine. Few people will take to the Internet to praise an energy company for excellent service – in fact complaints about energy providers jumped nearly 25% last year alone, so be prepared (and willing!) to help your customers resolve their issues.

Go over and above

Examples of online customer service teams going above-and-beyond are ten-a-penny but that doesn’t stop them being well respected and shared among customers and Internet-users. A recent favourite has been Sainsbury’s turning a customer complaint about ‘Vegan cheese’ on its head and becoming a social media sensation overnight.

The most important thing of all is to make sure first and foremost that you listen to your customers – there’s no place for defensiveness online.

Need help with your social? Our PR and social media team can help you out. Drop us a line to find out how we can help you.