Managing Unhappy Customers on Twitter

by Jim Berkowitz on May 26, 2010

Here’s some excellent advice from Christopher Doran, VP of Marketing at Manticore Technology, that appeared in his, Managing Unhappy Customers on Twitter post: stop trying to control the conversation!

Following the conversation on Twitter has become yet another critical “to-do” for us in B2B marketing.

B2B marketers need to be monitoring these conversations to understand several key factors:

1. What customers and prospects are saying about your product and company.
2. What competitors are saying about your product and company.
3. What your competitor’s customers are saying about their product.

From the customer satisfaction standpoint, identifying what your customers are saying about your product and your company is of utmost importance.  Happy, raving customers are great in building brand awareness and reinforcing purchase intent.  No one wants to buy from a company with unhappy customers.

By leaving unhappy unaddressed, you risk degradation of your brand and hesitation in purchase intent.  As the vendor, you need to know if there are any issues going on.  If there are issues, it’s critical from every aspect of your company and your corporate brand that they be addressed.  There are positive ways of handling the situation – and there are negative ways of handling it.  Let’s start with the negative way with a quick case study based on a Twitter encounter I recently experienced.

I recently saw a post from one of my competitor’s customers, flaming my competition for providing “terrible support” that also included their perception, “very young product needs lots of support.”  Obviously, this is a message that I want potential buyers to hear.  I have no doubt that they would like to hear the same from my customers.  With this Tweet in hand I simply retweeted the feedback to give the message a little bit of amplification.  Buyers are looking for feedback and input.

From my perspective, this is relevant input for them to consider.

Ironically, I didn’t see any responses from my competition to address the initial complaint, or my retweet.

What they did try to do was an example of what NOT to do.  They attempted to control the dialog.  I received a direct message from one of their Directors via Twitter saying:  “Is this the game you want to play?”   (To be honest, I thought this was the game we were playing – free markets, selling against one another, each trying to show why we’re a better solution over one another).

The “control the message” approach won’t work. Actually, to the contrary, the more you try to control the message, the more people want to spread it.  Unhappy customers on social media can’t be ignored, they need to be engaged.  The more you try to control the conversation, the more it will get out of your control, risking your brand and your growth.

So how should you address unhappy customers on Twitter?

First, establish a communication channel with them on the communication channel where the comment originated.  Use it as an opportunity to express your concern and get them to engage off line.  Social media is not the forum to work through specific customer issues.  Can their problem be addressed?  Perhaps there is an opportunity for you to turn this into a winning situation.  If you can address the problem, often the unhappy customer will be tweeting how happy they are with your support.  Expressing that you care and want to make them happy can also help the situation.  Customers want to be heard – are you listening?  Top notch companies focusing on customer service now have dedicated individuals to monitor Twitter for the faintest mention of unhappiness, so that these customers can be addressed.  Extreme?  Perhaps, but what is the cost of an unhappy customer raising hell on social media?  Run the numbers.

While technology in many ways has become B2B marketing’s best friend, it’s also rendered the old way of doing business moot.  You can no longer control the conversation.  Look to influence it instead.  It will be time and money well spent.

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