A humorous, toy grenade in a complaint departmentOne of my favourite things about SEO today is its diversity.  When I first started in the industry, it was all about building backlinks.  There was no real skill to it and it could be quite monotonous.

Today, I’m constantly wearing a number of different hats to account for the various different topics that need to be considered.

Content production.  PR.  Data analysis.  Technical developer.  Designer.  Customer service.  Sales.  All of these business areas – plus more – need to feed into a SEO strategy to ensure its ultimate success.

And it’s the latter, customer service, that I’ve found particularly interesting in recent times, especially with regards to its integration with social media activity.

Pleasing customers is key

Utilising social media is paramount to SEO success.  From social signals through to click-through traffic, an effective social media presence can prove to be one of the main components of SEO.

What’s more, it can be vital to your brand’s development in general – if you’re utilising social media, you’re satisfying your audience, and if you’re satisfying your audience, you’re doing a lot to ensure they turn into a (repeat) customer.

But with social media activity comes a number of potential pitfalls and hurdles that you have to face and overcome, with one of the most notable being negative comments from your audience.

Whether you like it or not, social media is now seen as a customer service channel for many users.  Whilst this can be great if you can resolve any issues quickly there and then – everyone likes to see a brand doing something positive for their customers – it can become an issue when customers are angry, frustrated or complaining.

Or more accurately, it can become an issue when customers are angry, frustrated or complaining and you don’t know how to deal with the situation positively.

Quick resolutions are fantastic

If we were talking about this topic a couple of years ago, my first piece of advice would be to move the conversation away from the social media platform as soon as possible.  Not only does this allow you to gain more information from the customer, but it takes the conversation out of the public eye, reducing the potential knock-on effect on your wider audience.

Whilst this approach can still be great today – and in some cases, is necessary – social media has become such an integrated part of our everyday lives that if you automatically try to push a customer conversation away from the platform they started it on, you’re likely to further aggravate some customers.

Whilst there’s no easy way to determine whether a customer complaint should be taken off social media or not, it’s simply about evaluating the situation.

Does the customer start talking about personal information, or do you need personal information from them?  Resolving their complaint via public tweets may not be possible, but you may be able to do so via a Direct Message (DM).

Does the customer need to speak to someone directly on the phone, or put their complaint into an official format?  This makes it pretty much a given that it needs to be taken off the social platform.

Is the customer simply asking a question that doesn’t have any personal details in it?  Chances are this could be resolved within a matter of minutes with a couple of reply tweets.

Get to the bottom of the problem

But whilst a quick resolution can do wonders for brand reputation, it mustn’t be to the detriment of the customer’s satisfaction in general.  By this, I essentially mean you shouldn’t put a plaster over the wound to heal it temporarily – the underlying issue is still going to be there and to ensure it doesn’t become a problem again, you need to deal with the root cause.

Although this is the case for any customer complaint, the reason I believe it needs specific attention when it comes to dealing with complaints on social media is that if you don’t resolve it properly, when the customer comes back to complain once again (which they invariably will), it’s going to be in front of your entire audience.

As consumers, we have a certain level of understanding with brands and complaints.  No one is perfect, and if someone complains and we see it, OK, it’s not ideal, but as long as it’s dealt with, it’s all good.

When we see someone repeating their complaint, that’s when we start to question the quality of the brand.  When you complain once, you expect it to be resolved.  If you have to keep bringing the same complaint up over and over again, what does that say about the brand?

As soon as a customer complains on social media, try and get to the root cause of their frustration as quickly as you can.  Not only will this ensure the complaint can be resolved fully and is therefore unlikely to cause you problems in the future, but most customers will be relatively content with the fact you’re looking so in-depth at their issue, providing you with more time to resolve it.

Not all comments need to be replied to

I’m sure this point will no doubt divide readers – and I urge you to read the following paragraphs rather than just the above sub-heading – but I genuinely believe not all comments need to be responded to.

In an ideal world, every one who sends you a tweet or writes on your Facebook wall would get a response of some variety.  And for the majority of comments, this should actually be what happens.

But when you’re looking at negative comments from people who are purely saying it for what appears to be no real reason, you have to consider whether replying is actually a good idea.

For example, imagine someone had tweeted that they hate your brand.  Nothing else, just a short tweet about how they dislike your company.

If you respond, you increase the likelihood of other people seeing that tweet, which in turn could have a negative effect on your brand’s reputation.  If you leave it, there’s every chance it will simply fall into oblivion, never to be seen by anyone except the initial handful of people.

This is of course only one side of the coin, and the person could keep on tweeting you or other people could retweet it and increase its reach, but as with the first point above, it’s about evaluating the situation.  Will a response to what is likely to be a nonsensical or irrelevant comment potentially do more harm than good?

I’m not a customer service expert.  I’ve never worked in a true customer service role and don’t claim to know everything there is to know about customer service.  However, through my work in the SEO industry, both social media and customer service have come to form regular parts of the strategies I implement and as such, I’ve developed somewhat of an in-depth knowledge about how to utilise both effectively.

As with everything in SEO, customer service is simply about satisfying your customers in the best way you possibly can – and when a customer is complaining on social media, you just have to understand what it is they want and expect from you to ensure you can respond in the way that’s going to have the best impact it can on them, your brand and your entire audience.

Image:  clintjcl (Flickr)