By Edwin Margulies
Sentiment is an attribute of social posts that can provide rich clues on how to engage with a customer. But it's not always what it seems on the surface. Here are some tips for figuring out the difference between a plain rant versus a cry for help.
Rants and Pans
Rants are important because they embody the spirit of entitlement which is one of the key tenants of social networking. If you want to rant in view of a social network, you have an instant audience and a lot of people will be listening. From a customer care perspective, it's important to "follow" the rants of individuals, especially if they are influential in your commercial space.
Decide to look for trends in the rants of Authors. Do they rant constantly and could therefore be characterized as a serial curmudgeon? If so, don't take the rants too much to heart. In fact serial ranting is a trademark of some influential bloggers.
It's important to separate a "blind rant" from a sincere cry for help. For example a customer may say: "I hate XYZ. They are just the worst. No one should do business with them." This rant does not contain any useful information with which to identify a problem that can be fixed.
Alternately, some rants can be very specific. For example: "XYZ just has the worst service. When I call I wait a long time. I was one day out of warranty and they would not fix my problem. I hate XYZ." Now, depending on the business rules and exceptions that can be made for customers, this post example is actually actionable and more likely to get some attention.
Regarding decisions on what to do with rants, I recommend drawing a line between blind rants and more specific ones. Depending on the policies of your company, that line could move a little, but what's important is giving your agents guidance on what to work on and what to ignore. In some cases, you may want to peel-off blind rants in to their own work queue so someone who is expert in dealing with really angry customers can disposition them.
Cries for Help, Oblique or Otherwise
Some social posts that cry out for customer care carry a sense of profound frustration or sadness. These are good to keep on your radar screen as a customer care team because they are kind of an "early warning system." For example, someone may say: "I am just getting so frustrated with XYZ. My service has been down three times this week and I just can't seem to get satisfaction."
That's not necessarily a rant, but rather a cry for help. It may be an oblique cry for help if the author of the post does not use the company name as part of a salutation, but nonetheless it is an open cry for help. Since it is fairly specific, the customer care team can focus on the level of frustration and especially the "three times" phrase to ascertain the priority of this post.
It is a good practice to develop next best actions based on the attributes of social posts. For example, you should be able to trigger on frequency, how long it has taken to respond, influence, and sentiment.
Dealing with Sarcasm
Sarcasm is a close cousin to ranting because its purpose is to show contempt or disgust to an intended target. For example someone might say: "Hey great job XYZ. I just love it when my service goes down three days in a row…" But don't treat a post with sarcasm as a rant if it has specific, actionable information in it. Just because someone is being sarcastic does not mean they don't need help or don't want help.
It's also important to consider that oftentimes, the persona that people use on the public wire can be more harsh than if it's a one-on-one conversation. People tend to be less harsh when addressing you directly, and more harsh in a public post. On the other hand, some folks are just plain sarcastic as a rule, but that does not rule them out as a candidate for customer service.
The decision with sarcasm is to read between the lines for the source of the problem and ignore the delivery. The content's what's important, not the delivery style in most cases.
Closing the Loop on Happy
When someone expresses happiness with your company, it's a good idea to recognize that. You can do that publicly or privately depending on the rules of engagement for your company. One way of recognizing it is to do a "follow" or "friending" of that individual to let them know you are paying attention to what they are saying and that you care.
The decision here is how far to take it. If someone who is currently happy with you sees you followed them or put in a friend request, it is customary for them to follow you back. If they reciprocate, it's recommended that you send a short, friendly direct message: "Sally, thanks for the praise. We will do what it takes to keep it this way. Let me know if you ever need help." The point here is that you should not just be responding to people who are unhappy, but also reinforce the behavior of people who provide your company with praise.
The nuances of sentiment provide important clues on how to engage with customers in the social realm. Whether they are rants, praise or cries for help, you should develop specific rules and actions for outreaching based on sentiment. By doing this you can establish a consistent, and useful social care persona for your brand.
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