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Social Media, Happy Customers and Missed Opportunities

What is the value of a happy customer? Is it more or less than a dissatisfied customer?

Social media has trained customer service teams to be hyper-sensitive to online negativity, possibly alienating and discouraging online positivity. Online monitoring software allows for the identification of both positive and negative sentiment in online conversations, yet negativity is given the lion’s share of attention by customer service agents trained to rectify unsatisfactory experiences.  “Reputation management” has become a growth industry with public relations and marketing firms jumping in with monitoring and engagement services.

Have we forgotten the business value of positivity and public praise? A recent experience with Delta Airlines brought this notion back to the forefront for me.   I Tweeted @DeltaAssist while boarding a flight en route to Orlando this past week, praising them for an outstanding customer experience, which went unanswered. In the previous few weeks however, my Tweets complaining of poor customer experiences with various aspects of their service were replied to in minutes. Below is a video blog of my experience and thoughts on this.

I’ve often stated that there is great value in online negativity about a brand if that brand proactively manages those conversations. It provides the business an opportunity to show the world that when things go wrong, it cares enough to listen and take the appropriate steps to rectify the situation.  Some of the greatest brand ambassadors are those whose negative experiences were addressed and rectified by sincere customer service agents.

DeltaAssist - Don't Avoid Happy Customers

There is also great value in terms of social proof and brand advocacy when customers’ online positivity is recognized, shared and even rewarded.  We don’t like to admit it, but like pets, as consumers we’re trainable. Give us a treat for certain behavior and we’re eager to replicate that behavior. Today, businesses are offering more treats (acknowledgements, apologies and resolutions) to those of us that complain online than those offering praise.

Join the debate. Has the pendulum swung too far?   Are brands rewarding – maybe even encouraging – online negativity by rewarding such behavior with more attention than that given to online praise?

Sam Fiorella
Social Media, Happy Customers and Missed Opportunities
Feed Your Community, Not Your Ego


Join the Conversation

susansilver 5pts

Sam, I think about this a lot as a community manager. When something negative happens, my clients want me to leap into the fold as if we are one tweet away from a bad PR landslide. I think negativity is a normal reaction to some things and we can't always fix the situation. 

Empathy is the answer. What matters most positive or negative is making your customers know that you have listened to them. I think when we come from that place no matter what our customers have to say to us, we will always do the right thing. 

Acknowledgement is the most powerful tool we have in social media. 

KristenDaukas 5pts

I did a post a couple of years ago about brands missing the opportunity to take fans and make them into ambassadors just by simply acknowledging their praise. Why would you NOT want to do this? I've seen brand fans rise to the occasion and stand up when others complained about the brand. In my opinion, it's a clear case of a marketing team just checking the box off the list when it comes to social media, monitoring and branding. 

dbvickery 5pts

Great point, Sam. Since we have a monitoring solution, I'm frequently writing about the need for monitoring. I do point out that it is important to identify both your brand detractors *AND* brand advocates. I guess what it comes down to is that negative feedback goes viral a lot more quickly, so brands have engagement/escalation procedures in place to protect against that situation.

Brands do not have engagement priorities defined for people giving them a shout out. They either do not monitor at all, or the people monitoring the stream probably nod their head and say to themselves "oh, that's cool...somebody had something POSITIVE to tweet for once"...while moving on to the next negative mention.

I'm a proponent of brands not only giving a quick shout out of thanks to encourage customer loyalty, but I also think they should look at this as "inexpensive marketing opportunities". For example, I was giving a demo to a restaurant chain, and I found a video showing a toddler who would do a "french fry dance" to get another french fry. I mentioned that they should reach out to the video creator and maybe offer a BOGO or dinner for 2 if they would re-post to the Fan Page. It costs the brand virtually nothing, but it engages a brand advocate...showcases the brand advocate's video...and potentially drives further engagement on the Fan Page because of the funny video.

It's times like these that remind me that active social monitoring/engagement are still new territories for most brands.

Anton_Rius 5pts

Great points here, Sam. I've often considered this idea myself, and I agree with a lot of what you said.

As an example, I hate calling a certain cable company because the customer service on the phone is generally awful. But if I tweet a compliant at them, they are great! By contrast, when I tweeted a couple times about how wonderful they are, there was no response at all. You'd think they would jump on some positive feedback!

I like the concept of social care. It's necessary these days. But I think it should be supported by exceptional customer service in other areas as well. It also shouldn't overshadow the positive comments they are getting either. Otherwise, like you say, it trains their customers to complain, rather than compliment, in order to be heard.


  1. […] that allow the identification of both positive and negative sentiment in online conversations. In most cases, negativity is given the lion’s share of attention by customer service agents. However, positive […]

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