Managing Unhappy Customers Can Help You Avoid a Media Crisis


Share on LinkedIn

Far too many of today’s brands are still taking a “head-in-the-sand” approach to dealing with customer dissatisfaction. However, a single disgruntled customer can dash off a tweet or Facebook post and unleash a firestorm of negative sentiment about any organization. That kind of anti-brand groundswell can create lingering damage.

A study from Burson-Marsteller validated that more than 50% of surveyed companies have already experienced a media crisis. Eighty percent of brands see a social media crisis as a tangible business risk. Another study from Altimeter revealed that three-quarters of social media crises could have had less impact—or been averted—if companies had been prepared to address them.

Yet, very few brands are doing all they can to manage customer dissatisfaction before it hits the social web. Today’s leaders need to know the harm a media crisis can cause and how brands can limit the spread of negative customer sentiment.

How Social Media Crises Harms Brands

Dealing with a swirl of negative online comments is always a headache for any brand. However, the effects of a social media crisis are often far-reaching. According to Burson-Marsteller, three key problems encountered by companies affected by social media crisis include:

  • Revenue Loss: Thirty-two percent (32%) of companies had a revenue drop, with 24% having subsequent cutbacks or layoffs.
  • Reputation Damage: Eighteen percent (18%) of brands experienced a tarnished public reputation.
  • Intense Online Scrutiny: More than one in ten companies faced heightened social media scrutiny, which put them at risk for a follow-on crisis.

Without question, a social media crisis can create significant fallout that rattles every corner of an enterprise.

How to Be Crisis-Ready

The best way to handle social media crises is to admit that they can happen—and have strategies in place to address them. At a minimum, today’s brands need to take steps to institute the following media crisis mitigation best practices:

  • Have a Media Crisis Plan: The best-prepared companies evaluate multiple social media crisis scenarios and have proactive mitigation strategies in place. These leaders also conduct proactive issue monitoring on social media and beyond.
  • Analyze Customer Feedback in Real-Time: Many companies collect post-interaction survey data from customers. Customer experience leaders conduct real-time analysis of survey feedback and social media commentary to detect dissatisfied customers in real-time. That way, they can follow-up directly with unhappy customers and potentially keep additional negative sentiment out of the public eye.
  • Expect Multi-Layered Follow Up: Research validates that it takes multiple positive experiences to make up for one negative one. At a minimum, plan for three to five reassuring messages to overcome customer skepticism. Ideally, companies should have centralized systems to manage all customer touch points—whether on social media or other channels, such as phone, email, or in person.

These steps can put your company on a path to rock-solid crisis management. Customers do appreciate when brands acknowledge and address their concerns. With the right approach, you have potential of transforming unhappy customers into passionate advocates for your brand.

Connie Harrington
Connie Harrington is a content strategist at eTouchPoint, a CX software company that has served Fortune 500 firms for 20+ years. Possessing 15+ years of international experience across five continents, her focus areas include: customer experience management, customer contact management, communications planning, content marketing, email marketing, and employee engagement. She earned a B.A., cum laude, from the College of William and Mary in Virginia.


Please use comments to add value to the discussion. Maximum one link to an educational blog post or article. We will NOT PUBLISH brief comments like "good post," comments that mainly promote links, or comments with links to companies, products, or services.

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here