Thanks to the world of social media and the explosion of Twitter and Facebook, along with partner applications like Vine and Instagram, the spread of customer disloyalty has never been quicker or as potentially hazardous to your brand's identity as it has been now.
We've already taken a look at some of the best retailers Twitter feeds and how they've managed to deal engage and deal with dissatisfied customers, but how else can you really help turn a potentially bad situation into something good?
Well, thanks to the wisdom of journalist and consumer advocate Christopher Elliott, there are three things that you can learn and utilise out of such situations – even if he writes about them from the view of airlines, they can all be adapted to fit any industry.
1. They're a teachable moment for employees.
Out of any problem that you could come across, the vast majority of them come from employee to customer relations. While it may be easier and more obvious to scold an employee for their actions – depending on the severity of the situation – it's far better to use it as a learning opportunity.
Bring this, and similar, situations up during employee training to let them know how to properly deal with such a situation in a calm and correct manner in the future. By equipping them with the right skills from the outset, it's less likely they'll fly off the handle when the same situation rears its head again – and if one person does it, it's more than likely that another customer will at some point in the future.
2. They offer a brief platform to get your message out there.
Sometimes an apology just isn't enough. You can apologise and offer a customer compensation for the inconvenience caused, but it won't always be accepted – however it should always be offered. Either way, a massive consumer relation meltdown is a perfect opportunity to show your community that you care, allowing you to underline your stance on a particular issue at the same time.
These opportunities have an incredibly small window for you to jump into – as most things build up and fizzle out within a 24 hour period – but acting fast means you can reap rewards quickly. After all, ignoring a problem and hoping it goes away is no way to do business – especially as your consumers probably have far more time to construct a vindictive campaign against you than you could ever manage to handle.
3. They give you a chance to let customers know how they should expect to be treated.
Customers who sit by and watch the fallout of a poor customer relations situation over social networks – and an awful lot do this (after all, who doesn't enjoy some schadenfreude now and again?) – end up getting the best end of the deal as they'll be judging how their possible future interactions with your brand may pan out.
Naturally, this is a nerve-wracking situation for your company to be in, but if dealt with correctly it'll send a wave of positivity out across the sceptics and observers – letting them know you'll deal with them in the appropriate manner.
Taking the case that Elliott brings up in his blog post about a passenger being booted off a flight for taking photos – if you're a passenger concerned about privacy you'll be relieved to hear the reason for why they were told to desist. If you're an enthusiastic photographer it means you know where you stand with company policies. But if you're concerned about a flight attendant speaking on your behalf about an issue you're more than comfortable with – you might want to look elsewhere.
Ultimately though, by speaking out and outlining how these situations can be dealt with, you've informed your customers properly and let them know where they stand and where you stand on the issue.
Obviously, though, the best measure for dealing with such situations is to avoid encountering them altogether. By ensuring that your staff are well trained, your policies are clearly outlined to customers from the outset and you're always striving to reach the highest levels of customer satisfaction, these altercations should be a rare moment within your business.
At Loyalty World Mexico, Loyalty World Asia and Europe's Customer Festival we look at ways that you can work with – and interact with – customers to ensure you're always offering them what they want and garnering their loyalty in the process. You can currently download a free brochure for both Loyalty World Mexico 2013 and Loyalty World Asia 2013, and register for updates for the upcoming Europe's Customer Festival.