How brands can use social media customer service for crisis prevention

Crisis prevention isn’t a one-time thing. You can’t just slap a plaster on the problem and walk away. 

By incorporating social media into crisis planning, you can fully prepare for neutralising a crisis that’s breaking on social media before it gets out of control.

Relationship building is crucial. 

Do those who follow you on social media trust the brand? Or did they just ‘like’ the page years ago and then forget about it? How’s the general feeling towards the brand? Is it positive, or are people flocking to social media to complain about customer experience? Do you do anything to remedy that?

A lack of relationship between brand and consumer can make it hard for people to trust you when you need them the most. Often in developing crises, your fans are one of the first lines of defence – from helping out other customers who are having problems, to sharing their positive experiences of the brand. Without this, the job of crisis prevention becomes that much harder.

Preparation: know the pitfalls and your brand’s weaknesses

  • Know the risks. While business leaders may think they have a good grasp on the risks to the brand, sometimes there’ll be issues that business execs don’t consider. Using social listening tools, you can identify trends in customer posts. What areas seem to be causing the most friction for people? Are they the same ones you thought would be an issue?
  • Listen to what people are really saying. Again, social listening tools can help. They allow you to keep an eye on the general feeling out there around the brand and its products. They let the social media team spot when patterns of posts start to appear that could signal a larger problem brewing. 
  • Accurate crisis planning. You need to feed the insights generated from social listening into the brand’s crisis planning model. You may have prepared for the crises you think are likely to happen, but pain points customers complain about can also develop into larger issues (and be an indicator of a more fundamental issue that you need to fix). 

Relationship building: getting to know your audience

The effectiveness of managing a crisis on social media is largely dependent on what happens before the crisis starts brewing.

  • Social media is conversational. Social media originated – and works best as – a conversational, relationship-building platform. A friendly, open dialogue with fans and followers when the brand is doing well will help to build warmth. You can build trust during good times by ensuring that the brand follows through with what it says. These factors will make it easier for you to quell a crisis before it takes hold.
  • Use a consistent tone of voice on social media. Social media isn’t the place to be overly corporate at the best of times, but especially not when you’re trying to stop a crisis developing. By ensuring that empathy and understanding run through your social media content consistently, you can be more effective at tackling problems over social media. You’re talking to real people. They aren’t just ‘consumers’. Their concerns need to be taken seriously.
  • Develop messaging for the most high-risk and common crises before problems arise. If you want to stop a bad situation from developing into a crisis, the important thing is to move quickly. You can save time by having some messages pre-prepared, as these should form the foundation of your posts. All social media posts should be tailored to the platform and the people you’re responding to. Nothing says “this brand isn’t really hearing me” like 50 copy and paste responses to people in a row. As well as being personalised, responses need to be short and in plain, easy-to-understand language. Most importantly, you have to be able to back up anything you say with action. It’s by demonstrating how you are willing to make changes that you can earn and keep the trust of its customers.

To read more about how we can support your brand’s customer service, download our guide to social media customer service, or get in touch with our team.

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