The recent lockdowns and COVID restrictions in Australia have significantly impacted the way customer service is traditionally delivered.
Retail stores have offered consumers alternatives to in-store shopping such as click and collect, as well as increasing stock as more consumers opt to shop online. However, the increase in online shopping, click and collect methods, supply chain disruptions and worldwide postal delivery crises have led to a flood of complaints online, creating multiple issues for retailers across Australia.
A lack of resources and staff shortages have also impacted the level of customer service that is usually available, as staff members who have either tested positive for COVID or who were declared as close contacts have had to self-isolate for two weeks.
Before the pandemic, online trolling was common and disruptive to online communities. The quick, effective response for content moderators or online community managers would be to remove and ban trolls who consistently spam and go against community guidelines, repeatedly spread hateful comments, and do not actually have a real complaint that can be dealt with. However, the real crises amid the pandemic can inevitably lead to real complaints, so it has been important for social media managers to carefully examine each real complaint on social media with care, attention and action.
Below are some strategies social media managers can utilise in their day-to-day job in order to communicate better with customers.
It is important to regularly engage with online community members. This includes regularly uploading content, and even if the content isn’t about a particular complaint, it’s important to not abandon social media strategies entirely because you haven’t addressed each complaint.
Despite online complaints, it’s important to proceed with scheduled content to keep updating old and new customers about your products or services. In addition to content, when it comes to Facebook or Instagram complaints, it’s easy to fall into the habit of ignoring comments.
However, if you’re responsible for managing a brand’s online presence, it’s crucial to address each comment with a proactive solution. An effective reply to a complaint will show the customer that you understand the issue, identify why there’s an issue, and most importantly, identify the next steps to solving the issue. The more you ignore the problem, the worse it will get.
In addition to replying to comments, if there’s a crisis such as COVID-19 that is causing staff shortages or postal delivery issues, it is important to publish a statement or media release across social media platforms and your website that clearly address the current issues and what is being done to solve them. This statement must be published in a timely fashion and with transparency to increase effectiveness.
Establish community guidelines
Every online community needs to have a clear list of guidelines. While it is clear that online trolls tend to ignore these already established guidelines, you still need to have these in place for legal and compliance reasons.
As you address each complaint, you will notice that there can be a grey area of comments that are genuine complaints, but also go against community guidelines, so it is important to consistently reinforce community guidelines that are accessible to all participants and reflect the brand’s values and purpose.
Online community managers and social media managers have the responsibility to create a safe, ethical online space and strategically engage with online members. In the interest of the organisation that you work for and their communities, an effective way to achieve this ideal online space is to adhere to a code of ethics, such as the code of ethics designed by Australian Community Managers (ACM), which is commonly used by Australian online moderators. This code of ethics is a helpful guide to communicating strategically and ethically with online community members and customers.
It is useful to keep a record of all customer complaints to ensure each one is addressed strategically and ethically. This is also important in case legal issues arise so that you have the necessary evidence and documentation to prove to your client or employer that you were dealing with the complaint to the best of your ability.
Making it known to your customers that their posts are carefully monitored, and that your company integrates record-keeping into its community management processes, can influence more responsible behaviour and thus prevent customers from going against community guidelines.
The importance of building an online presence for your brand
While receiving negative feedback can feel disheartening, it looks worse when the business managers are actively ignoring this feedback, thus affecting the brand’s online presence.
It is vital for every business to have a strong online presence to increase brand trust, and to generate local SEO and more customers. Customer feedback portals like Google reviews have the power to generate more customers.
Therefore, it is crucial to mitigate online complaints by consistently implementing effective and ethical strategies that can help you interact with online community members in a way that creates a safe, digital space.
Furthermore, social media managers must learn to address complaints in a timely and transparent manner, and reassure customers they are proactively trying to prevent and solve issues by working with their businesses and showing genuine progress in the resolutions process.