Save Your Reputation, and Your Sanity. Customer Service Matters, and Now is the Time to Become ‘Human-Centric’

Why Turning Antagonists Into Advocates is a Smart Move For Your Business

“In an era when companies see online support as a way to shield themselves from ‘costly’ interactions with their customers, it’s time to consider an entirely different approach: building human-centric customer service through great people and clever technology. So, get to know your customers. Humanise them. Humanise yourself. It’s worth it.”

– Kristin Smaby, “Being Human is Good Business”

In a recent blog about loyalty I warned, ‘beware the antagonists’, the anti-advocates who exist to share negative stories or opinion about your business online. Today I’m following up that blog with an essential toolkit to turn the disgruntled and disenchanted customer into a charmed and appreciated brand advocate.

For the sake of your reputation and the sanity of your customer service teams, read on…

In a marketing study, Touch Agency stated ‘over 1 million people view tweets about customer service every week and that roughly 80% of those are negative or critical in nature’. With that much negative sentiment being shared online, it’s not unrealistic to expect some of the criticism to fall at your door. Whatever guise this unfavourable scrutiny takes; be it tweets, facebook comments, online reviews, emails or phone calls, it’s time to accept that the customer has a voice, and it can be heard everywhere. A frightening proposition indeed for brand marketers. But as the old saying goes, fortune most certainly does favour the bold, and there are steps you can follow to ensure your business embraces the negative and turns it into a positive customer service story.


A typical business hears from 4% of it’s dissatisfied customers
A typical business hears from 4% of it’s dissatisfied customers


Turning complaints into compliments:

Start at your own front door.

In an age where brands are launching multiple social media profiles and blogs, whilst also partnering with review sites to host customer testimonials either onsite or online, there are a lot of places for people to share their view. It’s essential you actively police these owned properties constantly and ensure procedures are in place to catch a negative comment or review quickly. Set up daily checks on all outposts and consider specific internal processes for answering complaints or escalating to relevant departments/managers within your company if necessary. There are numerous great resources online that can help such as this Google support page that offers advice for responding to reviews.

Agility is everything.

If your customers are connected to the web via their smart phone, tablet, desktop or watch (and let’s be honest, who isn’t?) then you need to get used to the fact they can send a tweet, email or call you at any time of the day, instantly. You need to build speed into your response. A speedy reply can be the difference between turning a knee-jerk negative into a positive and that negativity escalating to a point of no return for your business.

Avoid a firefight, you will get burned.

The open nature of online means one customer’s compliant is ripe and ready for others to pour petrol on. Exacerbated negativity like this quickly spreads and can becomes a firefight for you and your customer service teams. In 2012, UK cinema chain ODEON suffered a customer service backlash of colossal proportions when a customer complaint was left unanswered over a bank holiday. The single Facebook post went on to receive 120,000 likes and 10,000 comments in 4 days. Quite a surprise to the returning customer service team. You can read more about this story on the Wall Blog but it just goes to show how a single complaint can quickly escalate.

Customer service – offer to make it better, whatever the complaint.

No brand wants to be held accountable for problems outside their control, but if a problem lands on your desk then you need to respond and then you need to deliver. This could be as simple as acknowledging a complaint and apologising, or as involved as demonstrating publicly how you are changing procedures based on a single customer complaint. You have to remember its not just about answering one question, it’s about demonstrating that your company values its customers and that customer centricity is at the core of how you work.

Avoid as much friction as possible in the first place.

Create and implement SaaS systems to avoid as much negativity as possible from the outset. As consumer demands for exceptional service continue, there has never been a better time to invest in a system that ensures seamless service at every touch point. At Conversity, our clients have reported significantly higher retention rates after implementing the IGS platform, a key indicator to customer satisfaction. Put simply, if it ain’t broke, you won’t need to fix it.

It’s your job to eliminate unnecessary barriers between you and your customers, so answer the tweet, pick up the phone, and start assuming responsibility. Take these steps and you are on the right path to turn your antagonists into advocates and, in doing so, demonstrate how you value each and every customer. Remember that although your customers won’t love you if you give bad service, your competitors most certainly will. It’s easy to take the time to reward your biggest fans, but being open and bold enough to embrace negativity and face up to customer frustrations with respect and action will give your brand a reputation worthy of praise for many years (or tweets) to come.

Do you have processes in place to respond to customer complaints? What have you found to be the best way to placate an angry tweet? I’d love to hear your views.