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After the love has gone: Keeping the flame burning during a brand crisis

social media
tone of voice

Working within social media means I've seen unadulterated dialogue between the brand and its customers. And if you've seen, how brands and customers interact, you've most certainly seen how delicate this line of communication can be. Bad news doesn't only travel quickly; it travels far.

Welive in a world where customers want to live your entire brand story. They want to construct their own narratives and tell, not be told how to live it. Use this concept to your advantage during a brand crisis on social media.

It also accounts for the extraordinary power of customer conversation. There's actual science behind it. Ryan Martin, PhD, the author of Why We Get Mad: How to Use Your Anger for Positive Change, says that although we share the happiness of people we are close to, we will join the 'rage of strangers' when we're unhappy. And that rage claims immediate attention on social media.

80% of shoppers say that they've changed their minds after reading a single negative review.

So how do we rebuild those lost connections?
Well, flip customer punishment to one of customer protection.

The first building block to adopt is a fluid approach to remedy the crisis. This helps to rebuild trust in the relationship between the brand and the customer on social media. A rigid line of attack to negative feedback can do more harm than good, while remaining fluid in your responses can help the customer feel as though they're valued and heard – a two-way conversation!

After all, trust is the substance of any relationship, and the connection that lies between you and your customer is no exception.

A rigid approach can manifest itself in:

Fear of failure: Not taking responsibility for the complaint or 'playing it safe' against the claim can be perceived by the customer as though as they are being ignored.

Rigid policies: If you start your reply with 'Our policy states that…' again, the customer doesn't feel their issue is acknowledged.

Fine print contracts: Informing your customers to read T&Cs can come off as passing the buck.
Putting profits first: A strict attitude to not issuing refunds or exchanges can result in an ultimately more significant loss to your bottom line.

Short-term goals: As above, valuing short-term revenue over customer loyalty will damage the business in the long term.

A fluid approach employs the tactics of…

Being customer focussed: Customers merely want to be heard. Allow them to feel acknowledged, be causal, choose the right tone and respond authentically.

Bring the customer along with your long-term goals: Take them on a journey with you to make things right, and show them how you're going to do it.

Showing transparency: Being open with the customer and telling them that you want to work through this with them makes them the central figure in their story; this will change your relationship with them into the future.

Setting clear agreements: Keeping your promises will repair that trust.
We know that actions speak louder than words; The best advice I have to repair trust is to knock your customer experience out of the park. Your audience will remember the interaction with your brand – not the negative one.

Work Together From the Same Playbook
The second tactic you need to use is making sure your team sing from the same playbook. You should also have a real-time crisis document or policy which your team can reference right away as needed. Whatever your policy for the incident is, you should follow the same playbook.

Let's look at the world-class experience that hotelier Ritz-Carlton provides its guests with, which comes from its master value of 'service'.

Defined by 12 subvalues that employees must agree to uphold. (You can read them all here, and they are all well worth your attention when it comes to exceptional customer experience – both online and off.)

So what's the number one takeaway for a brand during a social media meltdown? Aside from my recommendations above, in today's noise, listen. In a moment of consumer control, it's the most appreciated thing you can do for your audience. No generic copy, respond to each and everyone as you would a friend.

What examples of brands interacting with negative social media comments have you noticed lately? Which brands have you seen handle this well?

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Read my thoughts on language, consumer behaviour and branding.

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A digital copywriter, based in Paris, France.
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