As seen in Inside Trucking.
If you’ve ever witnessed a company meltdown over social media, you know how scary it can be. It usually starts with the most insipid, silly customer gripe and blows up in a matter of hours. After nearly a year working in social media, primarily for transportation, one of the most common fears I face in clients and prospects is the paralyzing suspicion that engaging in social media for business is akin to opening the floodgates for disgruntled customers to rant on a public forum, thus sullying the company image and brand.
This isn’t the case at all. But, as an organization, you must be prepared for the inevitability that negative customer feedback will come through your social media channels. Keep in mind, customers are constantly talking about your brand, your products and your services online, whether you have a social media presence or not. It’s essential to monitor this kind of feedback and know how to respond.
Here’s a hypothetical, yet totally common, situation in which you can either showcase your social media customer service prowess or have a total social media meltdown:
A customer in Vancouver just received a shipment of freight from you. The boxes were poorly packed and loosely secured. As a result, the freight is damaged and the customer is fuming. She snaps a picture on her smartphone and quickly posts it on your company Facebook page and tweets it out with the hashtag #PoorService. She includes a description of what happened with her post: “This was an important shipment and my freight was horribly mishandled! What are you going to do to fix this?”
How do you respond? You could have a customer service disaster on your hands or you could have an opportunity to show how attentive and genuinely contrite you are. It’s a matter of looking at the glass half-empty or half-full. Here are some essential things to remember when you’re dealing with an upset customer through social media:
1. Whatever you do, DON’T delete the ‘offending’ post.
…Unless, of course, it’s spam, trolling, hate speech, etc. In those cases, delete away. But, if you find yourself in a situation like the one I’ve described, deleting the comment only makes it worse. Typically, it adds fuel to the fire of the person who posted. And, once other people catch wind (and they will) that you tried to cover your tracks, it really takes away from your credibility. Remember, on the Internet, nothing is forgotten. Chances are, someone has already taken a screenshot of the post. Deleting a post rather than responding to the customer feedback publicly makes it seem like a) You’re ashamed of what happened b) You don’t know how to make it right and c) You can’t be bothered to find a solution. None of these are ideal when it comes to furthering your customer relations.
2. Respond to the post on the double.
Don’t let that negative post fester on your Facebook wall for too long before you take action. The longer it sits there, un-responded to, the more negative attention you garner. You’re also inadvertently encouraging other users to weigh in through comments, causing the issue to potentially snowball out of control. A simple “We’re so sorry to hear that! A customer service representative will be in touch with you soon. Let’s fix this!” is miles better than radio silence and buys you time to take stock of the situation and figure out how to rectify it.
3. Apologize. Just apologize.
If you are in the wrong, apologize. Sincerely. Don’t try to justify the oversight, give excuses or deflect blame. In these situations (and in life, generally), a good starting point in resolving an issue is just saying, “We’re sorry.”
4. Appoint the right people to respond to user feedback.
Make sure the people who are answering user feedback know what they’re doing. Make sure they have knowledge of your company, your policies, your standards, you mandate and how you’ve resolved, as an organization, to handle customer feedback. It’s imperative to keep your company’s identity and brand top-of-mind when engaging in customer relations—no matter the channel. Be judicious in who gets access to what platforms and make sure there are checks and balances in place to ensure your team is presenting a united front and serving the customer first and foremost.
Some of the most notable social media meltdowns have taken place over the use of inflammatory, political statements made by organizations through their social media channels. Others come to light because of human resources faux pas and breaches in ethics. For instance, recently, HMV mass-fired 190 people…who live-tweeted getting the axe. Beyond the obvious solution of being ethical and above-board in your operations, it’s a good idea to create a social media policy that lets employees know specific guidelines for acting as digital representatives of your company.
Remember: a social media meltdown isn’t the end of the world. But, it’s usually preventable. If you’re experiencing the wrath of a disgruntled customer through Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn, the best thing to do is always approach the situation with humility. Try not to get defensive. Responding to feedback through your social media channels is an excellent way to demonstrate your commitment to customer service and your ability to be flexible when it comes to problem solving for a client.
I haven’t been writing as much lately, for a number of reasons; sold our condo, doing a major house Reno, got a new pup, recorded a full length CD and busier than crap at work. Anyway, I thought I should send one more out for 2012.
It was a good year for us and the industry too. Caution is still King but not as many complaints around…everyone has made the adjustments needed to cope with what seems to be “the new economy”.
The driver crisis hasn’t brought the industry to a standstill yet and somehow the folks at the helm of the various trucking operations will find their way through it. It’s a tough business but one that I have enjoyed supporting, in my small way, for what seems like a lifetime… 2013 is our 25th year!
There was a record turnout at the recent Toronto Transportation Club dinner and Don Cherry was certainly a factor in the increased attendance. Sports and transportation have always seemed to go hand in hand…a guy thing I guess. Still, more and more ladies are making their mark on the industry and they were well represented at the event.
We added a person in Montreal and it appears to be a tough market to crack for an English company, even though our guy there is French. I’ve spoken with some English carrier customers and they have found it equally difficult. We’re still working on that one. The reverse scenario appears to be true for our Quebec customers breaking ground in Ontario. If anyone has some tips on that one, they would gratefully be received by all.
We added an account manager in Toronto too, which has been a great help. We had continued to run a bit too lean coming out of the recession. We’ve seen many of our carrier customers start to add bodies as well…a good sign I hope.
We’re adding a young gal in the New Year to help with social media. As mentioned when I spoke at the recent Transportation Summit, Canadian transportation has some catching up to do in this area and we are gearing up to help further with this in 2013.
When I looked over our account list for 2012, I saw many loyal customers that have been with us for decades and something new…a high number of good size accounts that came as a result of our web marketing. The web in 2012 was good news for smaller companies. A shift is occurring, with more and more buyers sourcing on the web. Resource to resource, a 1 million dollar company can get as many opportunities from web marketing as a 200 million dollar company… if they are willing and able to create the same amount of content and use proper search engine optimization.
I’m still amazed when people today, running great companies, don’t put much stock in the power of the web to build their business, help with recruiting, or simply make a favourable impression on customers, suppliers and their carrier partner network. More than ever, it’s not “a” or “b” when it comes to choosing the best way to market, it’s “a, b, c, & d”. That will be our core message for the upcoming year. Add to your relationships and referral business, with the new techniques available…add to, not replace!
Best of the holidays to everyone and we’ll see you in the New Year.
Lee’s quote for the day
Well, I for one thought I had heard it all. From “dolly converters” to “body jobs”, where we specialize in the industry, we have a pretty good vocabulary as it relates to the world of trucking. I came across a new one the other day though, “Non-asset freight pimp”.
Let’s face it; freight brokers still have a bad rap. Maybe it’s jealousy because the broker doesn’t have to make the heavy investment into their business that carriers do. Maybe it’s presumed or documented unethical behaviour. Either way, most freight brokers don’t want to be called freight brokers and many carriers would like to see them wiped off the face of the planet. Why? They have been successful in capturing freight that used to belong directly to carriers at a higher rate. Brokers can provide a lower rate and they are a contributing factor to the erosion of freight rates for the carriers.
We did a website for a small broker a couple of years back. He was happy with the results and referred us to one of his flatbed carriers in the region. When we met with that well established carrier, he was extremely frustrated. “How is it I keep losing out to a freight broker? He gets the freight and then I move it. I don’t understand.” I didn’t understand either, so I spoke to the broker in question. My assessment, after a brief discussion, was that the broker in this case, was a more confident sales person and he offered the customer a choice between several carriers, at several price points. Customers like choice.
It’s a funny world. There are many carriers that fill their trucks with broker freight. Brokers are their sales force and these carriers have very few relationships with customers directly. There are carriers that successfully outsource key lane segments to other carriers, like the corridor between Windsor and Quebec City or Ontario to Atlantic Canada, without a hitch. The message I get from that, is the shipper is mostly concerned about getting the job done, not how it gets done.
Lee’s quote for the day
“In the music business, there is a saying that the side men all want to be front men and the front men all want to go home. In the trucking business, it seems most carriers want to play in the “freight pimp” world and most “freight pimps” have the dream of building up key lanes so they can put on their own equipment. Whoever orders their new Cadillac first, is the winner!”