Everyone’s heard of cyberbullying, but not the kind that we’re here to talk about.
Like no other medium in history, social media can instantly shape and craft public opinion. With the click of a button, you can spread messages more quickly, to a wider audience than ever before, energizing hundreds or thousands of your friends and associates into action.
We started working with a new client recently. It’s a great company. The person that runs the company absolutely loves his job. He is tenacious about building a great product for his clients and he takes serving them very seriously. And with over 6,000 customers, he’s clearly doing things well.
He’s also been the victim of a cyberbully- a disgruntled customer. I’m going to leave our client’s name and the identity of his cyberbully out of this post because I don’t want to shine a spotlight on the bully. Instead of using a picket and bullhorn, this picketer is using Twitter trying to get all of his followers to throw rotten tomatoes at the firm.
The company has a policy in place to ensure the highest possible level of service for his clients. His policy is meant to identify potential abusers of his service. On occasion it creates a minor hassle for a few clients and most understand the reason for the minor inconvenience.
But not everyone. The company is in a pickle.
It’s akin to having someone picket outside of his office with a bull horn trying to stop everyone that walks by and tell them that by patronizing this business they’re contributing to another of the world’s great injustices. (all right, that characterization might be just a little over the top!)
What would you do if you were the company?
While there’s no easy answer because every situation is different, there are a few general rules you should keep in mind.
#1 Assess the situation.
Make a fair determination about what’s fair and reasonable. What are you being accused of? Are you guilty? Is it a misunderstanding? Do they have a legitimate beef? Even if you need to run your scenario by someone that’s removed from the situation to get an impartial opinion, do it! You’ve got to make an honest, impartial appraisal of the situation.
#2 Do you understand how they feel?
Make sure that you understand their perspective. Be able to explain their concern back to them to their satisfaction. If they don’t feel that you’re listening or understanding them, you’ll never fix their problem, much less win them over.
#3 Always, always be honest.
If you are truly trying to be fair and reasonable with a client you don’t need to hide anything- either in public or in private. So don’t. Be completely honest, even if you have to admit fault. Technology and social media makes it easy for people to do research, gauge others opinions and see if you’re lying to them. People hate being lied to and once they catch you in a lie, all of the trust you’ve worked so hard to establish evaporates- immediately.
Bad things always happen when people try to cover things up; GM covering up safety problems they knew about and ignored, Richard Nixon and the break in, Bill Clinton and the dress. Don’t ever deceive. Read more about transparency in this blog post about what Amazon should have done differently.
#4 Don’t overreact.
I can’t say this enough- don’t overreact. Whatever the problem is, it will pass- even if you’ve created a real doozie. People will forget the misstep with time.
#5 Remember the other person is trying to pick a fight.
Don’t fall for that bait. The other person wants nothing more than to get you to lose your cool. When you get your feathers ruffled, you’ll start whining and then you sound guilty. Take the high road. Disarm them by being fair and truthful.
#6 Invite them to have a one-on-one conversation.
Invite them to have a private conversation out of the spotlight. If the spotlight is off them, chances are they might be a little more reasonable. Not every bully will accept your offer. After all, the microphone gives them power. That was the case in this situation. This instigator, judging from their past Twitter posts, has made a habit out of doing this.
If they want to air it out in public, be as open as you can to explain why you’ve acted how to have. Be calm, fair, and treat them with respect. When other people in the crowd see that you’re trying to be reasonable, it will make the instigator seem that much more unreasonable.
#7 Let your customers defend you.
Always remember, you’ve got a game changing asset. If you’re consistently delivering exceptional experiences (products or services) to your customers, let them defend you. They will speak for you; stand with you. The more people who defend you, the more the crowd will dissipate as they recognize you’re trying your best to be reasonable.
It’s never easy to deal with someone who’s incredibly frustrated- whether they’re a bully or not, but if you follow some rules, it will mitigate the situation.