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How to treat bad comments on social media sites

Social media customer service is the quickest way for organizations to handle customer complaints, but it’s for all the world to see and can definitely have some negative effects on a company’s reputation. Facebook, Twitter, and company blogs are the most popular social media sites, and a proactive campaign to handle negative press can save an organization’s brand.

Last year the Greek firm Systemgraph, a support partner of Apple in Greece sued a customer who complained online about a bad customer service experience. Dimitris Papadimitriadis’ computer was giving him trouble, and the company never did fix it to his satisfaction nor did they ever gave him a replacement as Papadimitriadis contended his warranty stated. It was then the disgruntled customer wrote an online complaint about his unpleasant experience. Surprisingly, Systemgraph turned around and sued their customer for defamation seeking $267,000 in damages.

Bringing in lawyers, insulting the customer, or removing an unflattering post can all bring negative publicity and likely not be the drama any company would like to have circulating in the wide venues of the Internet. The days of “any publicity is good publicity” is far past acceptable fare. In fact negative online publicity from credible sources can result in a profound decrease in business.

Need some suggestions on how to address that bad press that can suddenly appear? Try some of these tips:

  • Respond to negative criticism immediately whether it is on Facebook, Twitter, or the company blog. Let your customer know that you are aware of a problem – either stand up for a decision or admit that something went awry.
  • If the organization has a blog, respond to it there where a detailed explanation can be supplied.
  • Ensure that an organization is transparent and gives honest feedback.
  • Insist on people identifying themselves so there is a line of credibility. Most organizations now realize the anonymity of the Internet can bring out unsolicited and unwanted comments posted deliberately by people who want to be amused or just cause havoc to an organization.
  • Stay calm. If the client is angry, do not engage the person in an argument. All you will be doing is escalating the problem. The goal is to calm the unhappy person and bring the situation to an amicable agreement.
  • Use specially trained customer service representatives for social media responses. This is not the job for IT personnel.
  • Go offline with the unhappy customer if the problem escalates too quickly or becomes unmanageable. Wait until the customer calms down and address the issues again using the appropriate procedures.

What we learn from customer review sites

The Village Blogger, after Albert AnkerThe other day I wrote about Tello, an iPhone app that customers can use to rate customer service. CEO Joe Beninato stated his reviews were primarily intended to thank employees for their excellent customer service. What happens, however when review sites become the venue for disgruntled and grudge carrying individuals or even competing companies?

Feedback on product or service reviews can actually help organizations to improve. Even if our feelings get hurt because we put our heart and soul into creating that pink and green leather purse, and several customers wrote reviews commenting how poorly the stitching was done or that the shoulder strap was too long, if we listened to the reviews, most probably the comments could make the product more desirable. If there’s a review on the lack of customer service for a particular organization concerning a poor follow-up or an unsatisfying problem resolution, couldn’t that kind of criticism lead to a better protocol in the future? That is of course if the organization pays attention.

Not too long ago I posted the story about Dimitris Papadimitriadis, a Greek physician who brought his Apple computer to SystemGraph for repairs. When the company did not repair his computer to his satisfaction, Papadimitriadis posted a comment on a public forum. The post wasn’t especially derogatory, but the company sued him for defamation and libel. That action probably has not helped the company, but where does freedom of expression end and libel begin?

With the new deluge of review sites, plus Facebook and Twitter, are customers, clients, and frauds taking too many liberties? We all know positive feedback helps, but when feedback goes nasty and is posted on public forums, how should organizations handle the bad press? Perhaps sometime in the near future, Facebook, and Twitter will have to become more responsible for libelous statements, but until then much of that isn’t controlled even though the Facebook and Twitter “police” have been known to delete unsuitable and derogatory comments.

Customer feedback and reviews need to be constructive. Bashing doesn’t serve any purpose. I tend not to even read those kind of posts because normally they are by anonymous posters. Who has any credibility when they post as an anonymous reviewer or critic? So what’s the acceptable protocol if your blog becomes a playground for negativity and abusive treatment?

Customer review sites need to have clearly stated rules and guidelines. We should not ban negative reviews, because that actually helps us improve and leads to authenticity of our organizations. Face the facts – not everyone is going to like your products or your services. Banning anonymous posters, deleting abusive language, and deleting defamatory remarks help to control the hit and miss mean spirited person. People should be required to register before they post. If a really bad review comes in, a moderator should be able to write back to that person and ask for verification. If it is a real person with a credible problem, an organization will want to follow-up; at the very least it provides another opportunity for a company to show they listen and work to correct problems.

It’s really easy to ignore criticism, and in some cases people just want to complain. If there’s nothing constructive to come out of the complaints, it might be the time to just ignore it since responding¬† could just bring more negativity. Do what you can to provide the best service and products; that’s still the secret to success.

photo credit: Mike Licht, NotionsCapital.com

Customer service goes to court?

MagsafeThe case of Systemgraph, a support company approved by Apple, and Greek physician Dimitris Papadimitriadis are becoming an Internet sensation, and it’s all about customer service or the lack thereof – depending which side you find defensible that is.

Papadimitriadis had trouble with his iMac and took it to Systemgraph for repair. He did not purchase the computer from Systemgraph. The computer had dark patches on the screen, and the company recommended interior and exterior cleaning and replacing the LCD panel. When Papadimitriadis went back to pick up his computer, he said it was worse – saw spots of moisture behind the screen and the LCD panel had not been fixed. Systemgraph offered to perform another repair, but by this time Papadimitriadis had allegedly lost confidence.

From a Google translation, Papadimitriadis stated, “I insisted that such computer ceases to be credible and relied on Article 540 of the Civil Code and Section 5 of Act 2251 – legal right to ask for a refund or replacement with my new PC under warranty.”

Systemgraph would not refund his money since he did not purchase the computer from them, prompting Papadimitriadis to post his story on a forum. And so here comes the drama. Systemgraph has stated that Papadimitriadis has damaged their reputation and the company is suing the doctor for 200,000 euros ($267,000). Papadimitriadis’ post as translated by Google referred to the company as “dodgy,” but didn’t seem harsh, but Systemgraph claims he was rude and aggressive stating it was an “organized attempt to slander and insult” their fine name.

This is the first time a Greek company has taken a customer to court for an online post, and both sides seem to have their supporters. The trouble for customer service, that is how I see it – who would ever want to take their computer to Systemgraph for service or repair? I would want to avoid them at all costs.

The court hearing is set for January 19, 2011. What do you think?

photo credit: Travis Isaacs