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Silent Complainers – How to Manage Your Reputation

Silent Complainers – How to Manage Your Reputation



When it comes to obtaining feedback from your customers, the goal is of course to have as many positive reactions, and as few negative ones as possible.

However, a low rate of negative feedback and a high turnover of non-repeating customers may be a cause for concern; it may be an indication that there are problems with your business, and the customers who don’t feel inspired to involve themselves are simply leaving.

Only 1 out of 26 unhappy customers complain.
91% of unhappy customers who are non-complainers simply leave.

Why are Silent Complainers a Danger to your Business?

A Silent Complainer is an unsatisfied customer who does not engage with your company after their initial encounter but uses word of mouth and/or private social media channels share their negative experience with others. It is estimated that for every 1 customer who is unhappy (including those that haven’t directly complained) – another 10 people are told about that experience, who then go on to tell another 5 people.

“In total, that means that for every complaint that you receive there is a possibility that an average of 1,300 people will hear about at least one of those unhappy customers’ experiences.
This is commonly known as the Customer Complaint Iceberg and, like the iceberg in nature, it implies there is always much more going on under the surface than is visible.”

Adrian Swincoe

Just because you cannot see negative feedback, doesn’t mean that it’s not happening and affecting your reputation.
But how can you deal with this issue when you can’t see how and where it is happening? What data do you need to look at, and how do you then go about fixing the issue?

Social Media Reputation Management

How you portray yourself on Social Media is critical – it provides a platform for engagement, feedback, and promotion; it is often the first interaction with your company that a potential customer has.

Monitoring your Social Media channels will allow you the opportunity to gauge customer mood, trending topics, and mentions of your brand.
By actively using these analytics, you can obtain an almost real-time view of current opinion regarding your company, and identify if negative comments and remarks are being made from any particular areas.

Due to privacy settings, you may not be able to see all mentions of your business – especially if the Poster doesn’t use hashtags or other easily searchable data, but you will be able to get a general idea of how your audience is feeling – and which areas of your business you can improve on to provide a better all-around experience.

Your interaction with the customer doesn’t stop at the Point of Sale (POS) – you want customers to maintain their relationship with you and inform others about it, your online reputation is a way incoming potential clients can gauge your business – and it is vital that it is professional, consistent and responsive.

If you have an engaging and professional Social Media presence, and someone starts making silent complaints to their friends, who then come to your page to see what your business is like – they may be swayed away from the negative opinion when they see the quality of your interactions.

Risks and Rewards

General practice now tends to focus more on being transparent and honest about your business and how you handle your affairs. Letting your customers see how you hold up to your ethical and moral responsibilities, and how your staff feel about the company can help to build trust.

This can be a risk though – if you have had scandals in the past, or are using unpopular methods to source or sell your products, it may cause a negative impact. However, with the digital experience connecting so many people, there is a strong possibility that these facts will come to light anyway – and having this spread as rumor or gossip from a third party will be a lot more damaging than deciding how and when to release the information yourself.

By being transparent and owning up to past mistakes, or making targeted changes in practice to ensure you are operating in line with customer expectations, you could see a boost in your reputation and positive feedback from consumers who appreciate the efforts you are making – this also reduces the risk of silent complainers using your previously unrevealed business practices as a way of undermining your company.

Best Practice

Having a general strategy and plan in place so you can react without delay is vital – it should include advice on:

Dealing with Difficult Customers

It is often tempting to ignore difficult customers or justify their negative experience as something of their own making. There may be some customers who deliberately set out to be as difficult as possible, but you should always take the approach that your product did not meet their expectations, and their concern/s needs to be addressed.

With a Silent Complainer, you may become aware of their complaint through a third party – you should still take the opportunity to address these people, discover where the complaint has come from and be seen to be taking steps to address the issue.

Social Media Public Relations

Never treat your business channels as if they were your personal ones – keep your language and engagement friendly but professional at all times. If your feeds have a reputation for light humor (such as Taco Bell) then it’s fine to proceed this way with posts (as long as you’re careful not to cross the line with any material that could be seen as offensive) but complaints or rumors of complaints should be taken seriously, and the correct tone used to engage with the aggrieved party.

Set up your analytics to monitor usage of your brand name, products and logo so you can see who is talking about you and where.

Providing a Consistent Service On and Offline

Being consistent with your strategy and how you engage with your customers – have one specific company ‘voice’ which people can identify with. The more appealing and open you make your company persona, the more likely it is that people will come to you with their complaints or concerns, as they will feel that you will take them seriously and deliver satisfaction through their customer service experience.

You want to match your experiences – give great quality service in your venue, and do the same online. The more closely aligned these experiences and values are, the more customers will come to recognize and engage with the brand.

Why You Should Use a Professional

A Professional will know the best approach to take for each individual situation and can advise you on best practice procedures and any other steps your business may need to take to ensure that your reputation does not suffer extensive damage due to inaction or the wrong reaction.

Professionals also have access to large amount of analytic and metric data which they are trained in using to establish where your brand is ranked, how you are faring in the market, who your audience are – and what they are saying about you.

The use of a professional may seem like an expensive outlay if you are unfamiliar with the amount of work they will undertake for the benefit of your business. Their use is an investment – and will save you time and money as they don’t need skilled training, or time away from your core services to manage and maintain your reputation as a staff member would if you decided to keep the reputation management in-house.

The bottom line is this – you cannot afford to ignore complainers, be they silent or otherwise; and you cannot afford to be without a dedicated social media strategy. Long term growth and success will largely depend on Customer Experience, and Social Media is now a huge part of this. If you don’t have a Social Media strategy, you will automatically be at a disadvantage.

Use the information that is widely available to increase your reputation, protect your brand and increase your visibility – it may seem like a challenge or too much for you to handle – there are professional services are available to aid you or manage the accounts for you.

You must decide how you want your business to be seen – then you need to make it happen!