Mpho Muvhango: Angry Customer + Social media = Bye-bye Business
28-05-2015 11:31:00 | by: Andrea Ayemoba | hits: 3900 | Tags:
Many companies/organizations remain unaware of the impact that angry customers have on their reputation. The value of a happy customer is well understood but the influence and potential of an angry customer should never be underestimated. The ire of social media-empowered customers can easily go viral and inspire movement. The number of tweets that go out on a daily course are normally complaints and all it takes to send your company’s reputation down the drain is the right hashtag at the right moment to turn one person’s gripe into a social media maelstrom. Negative reviews on social media influence the public’s decisions on whether or not to buy a certain product or service. As a result, that one customers anger which a business chose to ignore, later voiced online, results in people feeling mistrustful of the business in general. Angry customers are translating into lost businesses and damaged company reputations by the day.

Now we are clear on the need to respond. But how to do this?
It does make a difference how a company responds to an angry customer. One should make it a point to understand what motivates customer anger and refrain from the cause. Companies must seize the opportunity to convert this anger back into love, and doing this takes more than well- meaning replies on social media or apologetic e-mails. Fixing it will require rebuilding of trust through meaningful engagement that leads to real understanding. An investment in on-going conversations with your customers will provide insight, and help to proactively reduce the chance of anger taking root.Be careful of responding the wrong way to an angry customer though! This could worsen things monumentally. The worst thing a company can do is to ignore a situation or respond to it late, after it has been blown out of proportion. It is important to respond in a timely fashion and appropriately, and to render an apology where necessary. Keep in mind that customers will spend more with companies that provide excellent service AND respect them.

South African Xenophobic attacks 2015 case
When the news about xenophobia in South Africa hit social media, it went viral very quickly and the public was misguided. The South African government delayed in responding to the outrage until pictures of incidents that had nothing to do with the xenophobic attacks at the moment circulated as part of what was going on in the incident. The delay in South African government responding to the Xenophobic attacks resulted in other African countries´ rage towards the South Africa. The image portrayed by the pictures that were circulating on social media as the amount of harm South Africans were inflicting on other Africans was disgusting, shocking and unacceptable. It portrayed animalistic behaviour and inhumanity towards fellow Africans and served to increase the anger of other countries.
When the South African Government addressed the issue and pointed out the misleading pictures to be an exaggeration of what was actually going on, it was a little too late. The delay in the response had allowed for the anger to brew in neighbouring countries; South Africans working in other countries were sent back and South African businesses and brands operating in other African countries were shut down and boycotted. Moreover the outgoing Government of the Federal Republic of Nigeria has recalled its Acting High Commissioner to South Africa. A recent article on the subject read: "A government resorts to such an extraordinary diplomatic step to express outrage at actions or behaviour of another government ... The South African Government, as well as all political parties, religious organisations, non-governmental organisations, business, sports fraternities, including artists, musicians and ordinary people of South Africa, have been decisive and unequivocal in condemning and rejecting the attacks on foreign nationals.”
If the government had taken the situation seriously and addressed it sooner, things may not have escalated to such an international incident. Through the positive intervention of other countries finally, relative calm and order has been restored. South Africa is encouraged by the solidarity the country continues to receive from other African countries and the international community.
Four common mistakes often made by companies/organizations that often lead to putting their reputation at stake are:
  • Ignoring customer anger
Ignoring makes you appear aloof and disinterested which leads to further anger and creates a need to express the anger on social media, where people will be willing to listen.
  • Dismissing concerns
This damages company /organization reputation and allows the problem to fester
  • Forgetting that the customer is your priority
Your company/organization has one reason for being and that is to provide value to a customer. If you don’t, you are out of business.
  • Digging in your heels
When it gets serious and there is a growing public outrage, attempting to run away from it only creates a platform for enemies to blow this out of proportion. In a blink of an eye, the story will be exaggerated beyond repair, making it harder to respond constructively in future. The right way to respond to anger would be listening to customer complaints, giving real consideration to their suggestions, knowing the customer and putting their anger into context and finally acting on changes rather than delaying. Companies must understand that complaints are useful, no one knows your company like your customers and it is important to understand the kind of brand identity your company portrays. Companies must start seeing complaints as plentiful and easily harvested forms of feedback.
Four rules of turning anger into loyalty:
  • Listen to your customers
When attacked online, people think the best solution is to not engage; the exact opposite is true for companies. Failing to listen gives a problem time to fester.
  • Take their ideas seriously
Usually customer complaints come with suggestions of how things might be done differently. No one knows your product or quality of service better than your customers, as they are the users.
  • Engage with customers on an on-going basis
You need to know your angry customers in order to make things right with them.
  • Act on changes
Act on what you have learnt from their suggestions. Customer intelligence is about actionable intelligence.
The age of the empowered customer is also the age of the angry customer. People are good at complaining and the Internet offers an unprecedented platform to amplify their grievances. It’s a dangerous time to be a business that doesn’t put its customers first and make a sincere effort to know and understand them. But it’s a great time to be customer-centric, because anger is feedback. Companies that get to know their customers, especially the angry ones, have an opportunity like never before to meet demand and drive innovation toward success.
Mpho Muvhango is a Public Relations & Marketing Professional with Swagefast, South Africa

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