Entries with tag public relations .

5 Tips for Dealing with Unhappy Customers

For many people, dealing with angry customers is the worst part of their job.  While unfortunately, we can't promise that you'll enjoy this activity going forward, we can help to minimize your frustration by sharing 5 tips to diffuse the situation:

  1. Listen with Empathy.  If you're accustomed to listening to complaints, you may have grown jaded.  Rather than approaching an unhappy customer with a “What now?” mindset, listen with understanding and empathy.  A customer who feels like he is being heard will calm down much quicker than one who thinks his problem isn't being taken seriously.

  2. Don't Take It Personally.  It's tempting to become angry and defensive when we feel attacked.  However, this response will only make a tense situation worse.  Instead, take a few deep breaths and remember that reconciliation is your goal, not conflict escalation. 

  3. Take Ownership.  If your company has made a mistake in some way, don't try to deny or minimize it.  Oftentimes, the mere act of taking responsibility is enough to appease the unhappy customer.

  4. Provide a Solution.  After listening to the complaint, offer a concrete solution to the problem that doesn't create additional hassles for the customer.  For instance, if the customer received a defective product, you might offer to ship a new product to them free of charge without making them go to the hassle of returning the defective product.  This approach shows that you value the customer by not inconveniencing them over an issue that was your company's fault.

  5. Learn from Your Mistakes.  Customers can be a critical source of information when it comes to identifying ongoing service or manufacturing issues.  Rather than just providing a one-time solution to the customer's problem, use the input to make organizational changes that will prevent reoccurrences.

How NOT to Handle Your PR

The Internet can make things more difficult for a business that is in the midst of addressing a crisis.  For instance, if a company provides a less-than-satisfying response to a problem, its lackluster PR will make the rounds on the Internet virtually overnight.  With that in mind, we take a look at some recent public relations gaffes and what can be learned from them.

Don’t Shift Blame.  When Lululemon founder Chip Wilson was asked about quality problems with the company’s new yoga pants, he laid the blame on fat people.  Essentially, he stated that heavy women were wearing pants that were too tight and “quality problems” were instead, fat thighs rubbing together.[1]

Don’t Antagonize Consumers.  Daiquiri Factory, a bar in Spokane, Washington, recently named one of its drinks, Date Grape Koolaid.  This sparked thousands of dislikes and comments on its Facebook wall, as many people were incensed that the name made light of date rape.  Rather than responding sensitively, the owner took to Facebook, making light of complaints and suggesting that people were overreacting and not “smart enough.”[2]  

Don’t Be Thoughtless.  Ironically, PR executive Justine Sacco created a major blunder when she tweeted, “Going to Africa.  Hope I don’t get AIDS.  Just kidding.  I’m white!”  Within hours, her tweet had spread worldwide and her employer called it outrageous and offensive.  Not long thereafter, she was let go from her job.[3]

Don’t Practice Deception.  After Chick-fil-A president Dan Cathy said that the company opposes gay marriage, a PR crisis ensued.  The situation continued to grow more troubling for Chick-fil-A as its happy meal toy supplier decided to sever its relationship with Chick-fil-A because of its stance on same-sex marriage.[4]  This compounded Chick-fil-A’s PR problem and some believe that the company then created a fake Facebook account to defend itself in the media.  (Note:  although the company denies this, the Facebook account in question had only recently been created, used a stock photo, and only commented on issues concerning Chick-fil-A ).[5]

Don’t Be Indifferent/Remorseless.  For 13 years, Lance Armstrong vehemently denied taking performance enhancing drugs.  When he finally appeared on Oprah to admit that he lied, many said that his apology seemed forced and he appeared to lack remorse.[6]

Avoiding PR Nightmares with Twitter

The Straits Times and Chrysler sending out expletive-laden tweets, the McDonald’s #McDStories hashtag that generated negative feedback, and Wendy’s #WheresTheBeef hashtag that elicited sexually suggestive responses are just a few major corporate social media fails.   In most cases, PR blunders like these can be avoided.  Some suggestions:

Train Your Employees

The employees who are handling your Twitter account need to be properly trained.  They need to thoroughly understand your corporate mission, goals, and vision.  Additionally, they need to know what content is and is not acceptable and what information should be kept confidential.  Furthermore, if something goes wrong, they need a strategy in place for how to handle it.

Separate Your Accounts

In many cases, a Twitter PR disaster occurs because an employee inadvertently sends out a tweet from a corporate account, rather than a personal one.  To avoid this, you may want to make a rule that work laptops are only for accessing corporate social media, whereas smart phones, for example, can be used when an employee wants to access personal social media accounts.  Or, consider something like HootSuite which allows you to manage multiple Twitter accounts at once.[1]    

Prevent Hacking

Sometimes social media accounts become hacker targets.  Make sure that your password is strong and that only the people who need-to-know have access to it.  You may even want to consider a VPN or Virtual Private Network.  This will encrypt all of your Internet communication and is especially useful if employees access the Internet remotely.[2]    

Be Practical  

Beware that your followers may not have the best interests of your company in mind.  Not every user will have something positive to say about their experience with your organization.  This is especially the case if your business is B2C.  So, before soliciting users to submit feedback, consider the impact this will have on your organization.

In summary, Twitter PR blunders can be avoided.  If you follow the simple steps outlined above, you’ll minimize the odds that you’ll have to tweet a corporate apology. 

Happy tweeting!