A recent study conducted by Harris Interactive on behalf of RightNow Technologies, Inc. found that retailers are using social media as a tool to monitor negative comments–and turn unhappy customers in brand advocates.

The report surveyed 1,605 U.S. adults who shopped online during the 2010 holiday season and provided insight into the customer experience.  With more people turning to social media as a way to vent and share frustrations, the survey examined how well retailers used social media as a two-way communication channel to address concerns.

In reviewing the results, I have to compliment the retail industry as a whole.  A whopping 68% of consumers who posted a complaint or negative review on a social networking site were contacted by the retailer.  Even more amazing to me were the results of that contact:

  • 34% of those people deleted their original negative comment
  • 33% turned around and posted a positive review
  • 18% became a loyal customer and bought more

So what can staffing and recruiting firms learn from retailers?

  1. Pay attention! People are using social networks to provide feedback – both positive and negative.  If you’re not aware of what’s being said about your company, you can’t control the conversation.  Use tools like Google Alerts, Social Mention, and TweetDeck to monitor what’s being said about your company.  There are also many paid services that will do the research for you, just Google “Social Monitoring Tools” for several great lists.
  2. Determine the cause of the frustration and fix it. You’ll run into issues in which an unplaceable candidate complains because you couldn’t find them a job.  It’s part of the business.  But, you may also find real people or process issues in your organization.  If you find that candidates or clients are continually complaining about the same person in your organization, take the appropriate steps to change behaviors.  If you find you have a process breakdown that is causing service issues, address the process.
  3. Address the negative feedback head-on. In a nonconfrontational way, address the person’s feedback and display genuine concern.  Explain that you would like to right the wrong and invite the person to speak with you directly off-line.
  4. Share successes. Once you have resolved the problem, be sure to share the solution in the original comment stream.  This will show that your company cares about candidate and client concerns, takes issues seriously and works hard to develop a good solution.
  5. Know when to say enough is enough. Some people just like to complain.  You are not going to solve 100% of problems.  You won’t turn everyone that has a negative experience into happy customers.  The key is to open the lines of communication, try to solve their problem, and if they aren’t receptive or the conversation turns more negative, it may be time to move on.  Also, if after the first communication online it continues to turn negative, try to reach out off-line.  That way you can get into a deeper conversation in a more private manner.
  6. Don’t say anything you’ll regret! This should go without saying, but I feel the need to list this anyway.  Once you comment on a social network, it is there for public consumption.  Be professional, be courteous and present your company in the best possible light.

I hope this helps, and if you have any questions about social media policy or best practices for your business, please email me or call 888-696-2900.  And be sure to view the the entire social media study from RightNow for several other interesting findings.

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