Day two of Social Media Week (SMW) is in full flow already, so here's my second blog of the week, which looks at the importance of efficiently managing your online reputation.

A number of years ago to get a big company to pay attention and react you’d often need to write a very strongly worded letter to Anne Robinson and her watchdogs to cause a stir and put your issues centre stage. But, in the age of social media the consumer has never had a louder mouthpiece for when they want to express their frustration. Their sentiments can be spread around the social digisphere in seconds.

To some, the solution to this would be to simply avoid social media at all costs and to stay away from it altogether. From my experience this is not the right approach to take. As I embarked on my career in customer service just over a decade ago a common message within most training I went on was that a satisfied customer would tell two or three people about their experience but a dissatisfied customer would tell ten to twenty people.

The world was a much less connected place. Concorde was still in the air, Woolworths was on the High Street and a tablet was something prescribed by a doctor. Hashtags, pokes and pinning were concepts yet to be conceived and the relationship between companies and customers was very different to how it is today.

Nowadays customers are able to be much more vocal in sharing their experiences with companies good or bad. You’ve probably not heard of a band called Sons of Maxwell or know that their lead singer is a chap called Dave Carroll. The directors of United Airlines certainly do.

Dave was flying on a United Airlines flight with his band who were on a tour. To cut a long story short, they overheard other passengers talking about seeing guitars being thrown onto the plane, however upon arrival at their destination the guitar cases appeared fine so they thought no more of it.  The next day at a soundcheck when Dave opened the guitar case he realised that the base of the guitar which cost more than £3,000 was badly damaged due to the negligence of the airport staff. Over the next 9 months Dave made the appropriate complaints and was passed from pillar to post with little success.

That was until Dave wrote a tongue-in-cheek song about his experience called “United breaks guitars” and posted it on YouTube on the 6th July 2006. Within the first day it had amassed 150,000 views and in less than a week United Airlines share price dropped by 10% costing shareholders just over £112 pounds ($180m dollars). As of today, the video has been viewed 13.3 million times, significantly more than the ten or twenty people who would have heard about it in days gone by.
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As much as companies strive to provide the best possible service to their customers, it’s not always going to be perfect 100% of the time. So what happens when a customer gets in touch with a grumble?

1. Stay on top of it

You should be keeping an eye on your social channels and customer feedback. Tools such as Google Alerts can scour the internet for specified terms whilst Social Mention is a great free tool which allows you to search for specific terms such as your companies name with feedback on the sentiment the system has detected from the system.

2. Convert your critics

A complaint is a brilliant way to show a customer how things should be done. By coming to you the customer isn’t just taking their business elsewhere, they’re giving you their problem and they want you to give them a solution. Be honest and professional at all times maintaining an appropriate voice for the brand whilst trying to rebuild the relationship with the customer. It’s always important to find out what the customer wants, a general misconception is that all angry customers want money this is far from the truth and in fact, a lot of the time the customers just want a sense of indemnity.

3. Delete at your peril!

Transparency really is the key to complaint resolution on social media. You should never delete a comment (unless its content is deemed to be indecent or highly offensive) as this will only add insult to injury for genuinely aggrieved customers.

4. Don’t delay - reply today

When a customer gets in touch reply as soon as feasibly possible. You never know, this immediate attention may stop your customers enquiry snowballing into YouTube’s most viewed customer complaints!

So, listen, learn and respond to your customers - they are the lifeblood of your company.