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March 01, 2012

Dealing with Upset Members via Social Networks: One Rule to Rule Them All


by Ron Daly 

One of the biggest arguments for social media that every "social media expert" of the past three years presented was the idea that you could deal with customer complaints via Twitter, Facebook, etc. 

As we've all learned recently, there aren't a lot of people complaining directly to credit unions OR banks about their bad experiences, and when they do seek out their FI, it's usually moved from social media to some other channel that's more conducive to problem-solving (read about it here). 

So, for smaller CUs and banks, complaining customers aren't the biggest threat - it's silence. It's the larger banks and CUs that are going to get noise in the channel. And what then? What are the steps for dealing with an issue via a social network? 

I think this list from Social Media Examiner is pretty helpful, especially their "rule 1": 

You Can’t Respond to Conversations You Don’t See

Now, before we dig into this, let's clear the air - no, there aren't a lot of people out there that talk about their credit union via social media, positively or negatively. Not a LOT. But there are some. Depends on the situation. 

From my own anecdotal research, the Facebook and Twitter accounts of very engaged, community focused credit unions are fairly busy and have plenty of traffic and regular postings by members. Some are happy, some aren't. Some CUs reply to their followers/friends, some don't. But at least someone, somewhere inside that organization, is aware of the situation. 

What happens next is up to the organization and the expectations they've set of their social media manager. Let's work it out: 

  1. A compliment comes in -- Great! Pat yourself on the back or pass the good word along to the proper person in the organization. 
  2. A complaint comes in -- Here's where the difficult part comes in. Is this person a member? Does their complaint deal with customer service, an account issue, or an IT issue? Are they using foul language? Are they just trying to get a rise out of you? Take a breath, then proceed. Oh, and if they're using swears or harmful language, delete their post and politely point them to your policy regarding conduct. Don't have that? Go whip one up with compliance and legal. It's not unreasonable, it's your brand integrity you're protecting. 
  3. A complaint comes in about service -- Contact the member privately to get the specifics. Then, get in touch with the manager of that department so you can find a smart, sane way to address the problem. Reach out to the member again after the complaint's been filed to make sure there are no hard feelings. 
  4. A complaint comes in about an ATM/online banking issue -- Contact IT and see what the problem is. For an ATM issue, speak to that branch's manager and ask about what's being done or needs to be done. 
  5. A complaint comes in about a member's account -- Put that member in touch with a member service rep to get the problem ironed out, then follow up later after the issue is resolved. 

To anyone who skimmed over that list, let me ask you a question: what did you expect? Was social media supposed to be the be-all, end-all, no-muss, no-fuss solution to all life's little problems?

Listening matters. Paying attention to what your competitors are doing matters. Paying attention to your partners and your "peers" matters. And if you only get presented with one problem per month and you solve it? Well, you've solved one problem. Move on to the next one. 

But writing off the capacity to get things done using social media completely? That's a failure not of taste, but of common sense. It's the broken window theory - fix problems when they're small, when they're few. Create a legacy of solving problems with social media, people will know that's a way to get their problems solved. 

And always remember rule 1: ignorance is by no means bliss. It's just a mound of problems you aren't solving. 



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Ron, thanks for a thoughtful post. Social media, to me, isn't the answer. But it can be another useful arrow in your quiver. Keep up the great writing!

- Anthony, NAFCU

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