Managing Your Reputation and Negative Reviews During Extreme Weather - Warm Thoughts Communications
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Managing Your Reputation and Negative Reviews During Extreme Weather

by Olivia Mastromonaco, Social Media Manager, Warm Thoughts Communications

Thanks to the power of social media, a company’s brand is now in the hands of its consumers much more than ever before. How your customers feel about their most recent experience with you can be posted to Facebook, Google, Yahoo and other sites in a matter of moments. And the consequences of angry reviews can be devastating and long lasting. Recent studies show that 65% of internet users read reviews before making decisions about who they chose to do business with.

The recent extreme weather had every fuel company on edge, working beyond capacity, and at the mercy of manpower shortages and rising wholesale prices. The stakes for customers are just as high. Trying times like these create an environment that is ripe for customers using social media to reach you (especially if they can’t get through on your phone lines) and to complain about you, and to use social media as leverage to get you to prioritize them. Like the rest of your business, your social media strategy and resources are truly put to the test under these conditions.

A post from a disgruntled customer went viral. It was shared over four thousand times, reaching hundreds of thousands of people within days.

None of this is particularly fair, and often the customers complaining the loudest put themselves in these circumstances to begin with. But that’s beside the point. In one case this winter, a post from a disgruntled customer went viral. It was shared over four thousand times, reaching hundreds of thousands of people within days. This led to an influx of negative messages, comments, and reviews on their own page. We saw similar impact when local TV stations would descend on propane offices with an obvious agenda.

Rules of Engagement

So how do you avoid these types of situations and prevent small problems from becoming big ones? We have a few suggestions to maximize your opportunity and minimize your vulnerabilities.

  1. Don’t ignore them!
    Customers are already frustrated with lack of service or difficulty getting in touch with you. It’s fortunate that they came to your social media first before going to Yelp, Google, BBB, etc. You can control the conversation on your own platform, so be sure to always answer! Other companies in your area are probably facing the same challenges. Their customers will be looking at your page to see if you’re a good company to switch to for the rest of the winter!
  2. Timing matters
    Just like the example above, the timing of your response is important. Responding quickly is the best way to minimize the damage.
  3. Take it offline
    If possible, ask the customer to private message the page or to call your office number. The last thing you want is a back and forth public argument for all to see. We cannot overemphasize how valuable this is.
  4. Be transparent
    “Honestly is the best policy,” right? Own up to any mistake, apologize sincerely and don’t make excuses or defend yourself. Sympathy and empathy will help diffuse the situation and put your company in a better light. This is true even when the customer is wrong! The last thing you want to do on your Facebook page is “win” an argument with a customer.
  5. Increase the number of posts
    Chances are you’re facing delays and challenges answering all the phone calls. A few messages on your social media about what you’re experiencing can answer a lot of frequently asked questions from customers. Your customers may not know just how busy you are and just how hard you’re working — let them know!

Here at Warm Thoughts we know that social media never sleeps and we have even responded to customers at 3 a.m.!

  1. Be available after-hours
    It’s after business hours, some customers are still expecting deliveries, and no one is answering the office phones and they panic. They will reach out to you on any platform to get help. Ensuring them you have received their message will not only show you care, but other customers and prospects who see this will have more confidence and trust in your company. Here at Warm Thoughts we know that social media never sleeps and we have even responded to customers at 3 a.m.!
  2. Take photos!
    This isn’t just an opportunity to show off your stellar customer service skills. It’s also a time to showcase all the good things you’re doing to keep your customers safe and warm (especially when they think the fuel just magically shows up in their tank!) We know this isn’t the first thing on your list but documenting the names and faces out there doing all the hard work can go a long way in establishing good will.
  3. Should you turn off your Facebook reviews all together?
    If you are experiencing a high volume of negative reviews, it may be wise to temporarily turn them off while the crisis is happening. On one hand, it’s good they are addressing you directly on your page because you can control the conversation. On the other, these reviews live forever on the page and if you get too many, the clean up after will be a long and difficult process. The risk you have to weigh is that if people are mad enough, they will simply take the conversation elsewhere (like Google for example) where it can be harder for you to manage. Every case is different.
  4. Turn bad into good
    If you solve the problem for someone who posted a bad review, ask them to retract it or update it. Often they will sing your praises.
  5. Get more positive reviews!
    Once the crisis is over, bury your negative reviews in an avalanche of positive reviews. It’s the best way to manage your online reputation.

Remember: the world is watching (no pressure!) Your customers, community and prospects are going to be able to see this forever. How you handle each case can seriously enhance or undermine your reputation. Most of this can get nipped in the bud by having a quick, honest and empathetic initial reaction. The most important message to convey to your customers is that you are listening, you care, you’re taking it seriously and you’re doing everything you can.

Olivia Mastromonaco manages the social media team at Warm Thoughts Communications where she oversees social media strategy and execution on behalf of dozens of clients with outstanding results.

You can reach Olivia Mastromonaco online or call our office at 201-330-9276


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