Consumer journalists are always keeping an eye on social media for possible stories – for instance an upsurge in customer complaints or allegations of unfair treatment by a well-known company. So it is natural to want to deal with any such issues as quickly as possible before they escalate, and potentially turn into something more serious; perhaps by contacting the customer directly and seeking to resolve the issue. But is this the right strategy? The advice that came out of a lively social media discussion at the CIPR Corporate & Financial Group last week, with a number of digital experts, was to deal with customer issues socially rather than privately. Then other customers can see that problems are being properly dealt with, which gives them more confidence to do business with you. Some large organisations, such as BT, have separate customer care channels, or specific forums where the issues can be aired. This diverts the awkward stuff away from your main corporate feed of information, and makes more sense than, for instance, having a tricky Twitter exchange in full view of all your followers.
Most journalists are realistic, and understand that sometimes things will go wrongMost journalists are realistic, and understand that sometimes things will go wrong; they ignore far more reader complaints about big brands than they actually write about. To turn angry customers into ‘good news’ is not a realistic expectation; but if journalists can see that your general level of complaints is low, and you are willing to demonstrate publicly via social media that you are dealing with them effectively, then they are usually liable to give you the benefit of the doubt.