Customers are influenced by what they experience, but also by hearing about the experiences of others. In crowded, competitive markets, maintaining positive ‘brand capital’ with customers is an important part of business continuity. Although social networks often have a gradual effect on a company’s activities rather than an immediate one, crisis management is an exception. A crisis within the company that affects product or service quality perceived by customers must be handled bearing in mind that customers interact and influence each other, either positively or negatively. Social media can provide a good resource for managing this.
Unfounded rumours are some of the most difficult things to deal with in times of crises. But by disseminating clear information about what is happening and what your company is doing to resolve the situation, you can prevent such rumours from starting. Facebook and Twitter are the obvious candidates because they have some of the largest user communities. They also allow you to respond to any negative comments, as well as multiplying communications with key influencers among customers to add additional positive weight to your social network presence.
Naturally, all this benefits from adequate preparation as well. A social network customer response team needs to mesh with a traditional call centre team to share similar targets on responsiveness and customer satisfaction. Metrics or key performance indicators need to be in place, such as speed and success rate of resolution of problems or reply to customer comments. And of course, ‘brand advocates’, those customers who feel strongly positive about your company and who are prepared to state that, need to be found and nurtured too. So while positive impact in a time of crisis can be rapid, sufficient time must be taken in advance to put the right things in place in the social networks that are the most relevant for your customers.