In today’s connected world, social media has made every brand vulnerable to a media crisis. A single negative comment by a customer or detractor can quickly go viral and cause deep and lasting reputation damage.
In fact, a recent study indicated that 50% of companies have experienced some type of media crisis, and 80% of companies do see the potential risk of a social media crisis. Moreover, research from Alitmeter has shown that 75% of social media crises could have been diminished or averted if companies had been better prepared to handle them.
What does this mean?
Your company must mitigate the risks of social media disaster by having a plan to combat negative customer sentiment when it surfaces. You need to understand the big picture about how an online crisis can damage your brand and the benefits of strong negative sentiment management. You also need a plan in place to avoid social media disaster due to poor customer sentiment.
An Online Media Crisis Can Damage Your Brand
Avoiding or managing a social sentiment crisis is an imperative for today’s brands. Recent research from Burson-Marsteller shows that companies that experienced a crisis experienced negative impacts across many dimensions. For example:
Moreover, academic research underscores that a brand’s response to a crisis has a measurable impact on financial results. A Stanford graduate school study revealed that companies that take responsibility for negative issues outperform those who do not by 15% to 19%.
These statistics reinforce that addressing negative sentiment isn’t just a nice idea. It’s a strategic imperative.
The good news is that managing a negative situation well can create reputation uplift. If negative sentiment surfaces, your brand can work to fortify relationships with affected customers. You can take targeted steps to reach out to your customers behind-the-scenes—via the communications channels they use to reach you—and help transform a negative experience into a positive one. By responding with authenticity and compassion online, you can demonstrate a commitment to positive customer experiences and potentially grow your engaged audience.
Keeping Negative Sentiment Out of the Public Eye
It’s a well-known fact that customers are more likely to share poor experiences than positive ones. However, you can mitigate the dissemination of word-of-mouth negative sentiment by making better use of the tools you likely already have—customer surveys.
Many brands have a sentiment survey mechanism in place for customer feedback capture after every interaction. Today’s customers can provide immediate feedback via phone, text, web, or email. However, far too many brands are still aggregating sentiment data at periodic levels for management review. By the time those reviews happen, brand damage may have already occurred and global customer sentiment may have shifted in a new direction.
The only way to get an accurate read on customer perceptions is via real-time customer survey analysis. Advanced technology tools can give you an up-to-the minute pulse on customer sentiment trends. Moreover, you can also get alerts to notify you when a customer has left a poor survey response as soon as it occurs. That gives you a much better chance of taking corrective steps to prevent negative perceptions from leaking out on to the social web.
Although every scenario is different, your negative sentiment resolution plan should include an expectation that you will need to reach out to dissatisfied customers several times to restore their trust. Results from the Edelman Trust Barometer study shows that 64% of people need to receive a reassuring message three to five times to overcome skepticism.
This means that you need technology that lets you keep data on centralized customer interactions with your at-risk customers. That way, every front line employee—from the contact center to a physical location—can have the latest information on customer interactions.
Preparing for the Inevitable
It’s easy to avoid thinking about dissatisfied customers and potential media crises. But smart companies know that dealing with this difficult territory is vital to brand protection. In the past, nearly all business communications were one way, which gave brands more message control. Today’s customers and social influencers can participate in shaping, reinforcing, or even undermining your messages.
Research from Burson-Marsteller shows that the most crisis-ready companies have a rock-solid planning approach. Fifty-nine percent evaluate multiple scenarios that could trigger a crisis, while 57% have pre-established mitigation steps and 53% percent conduct proactive issue monitoring. By taking a strategic approach to evaluating and acting on negative customer sentiment, you can be one of the winners in this difficult terrain.
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