‘What if customers complain using social media?’   Our answer at Skipedia is simple – that’s great.

Obviously no one wants an unhappy customer, but the great advantage of social media is that you can find out quickly if your customers are being negative about your brand online.

Sunshine Village’s social media fail
Then it’s a matter of having a policy in place to deal with it.  In the infamous case of Sunshine Village last year, a delay in responding, obfuscation and tit-for-tat accusations led to a disasterous social media fail.

Flashpoint in Snowbasin
Snowbasin in Utah
recently had a challenging incident that they managed much more successfully (although not perfectly).

The flashpoint was when a snowboarder had his pass confiscated by the ski patrol.  You can view the encounter on Vimeo yourself.  Two versions are available, but both the first and second tell roughly the same story – the ski patroller in question appears to be unreasonable.

Two sides to every story, but often only one gets seen…
Of course, we only see a certain version of the story, but it was that story that went viral thanks to tweeting by stars like Tanner Hall.  The videos have now had over 140,000 views.

Snowbasin addressed the issue directly on Facebook and Twitter
Unlike Sunshine Village, Snowbasin responded (relatively) quickly and directly addressed the issue.  Okay, they could have been more specific about any disciplinary action to be taken, compensation to the affected party and changes to policy for future incidents.  But at least they didn’t shirk the issue and tackled it head on, as this screengrab shows:

Snowbird's Facebook response was effective

795 Comments, 406 ‘Likes’ and 51 ‘Shares’
You’re not going to wade through the 795 comments, and neither are most other people.  406 people liked the post and it was shared 51 times.   That sort of engagement is usually impossible to achieve.

Yes, there will be residual negative consumer sentiment, some of which may never go away, but Snowbird have been decisive, acted and moved on.

(There is also the irony that the high levels of engagement will inflate their Facebook reach by boosting their Edgerank, so even if they have lost some fans, they will have greater exposure to many others.)

Monitor your brand online
With Twitter, Facebook and numerous blogs to contend with, it’s ideal if you can employ someone to monitor your brand online, or alternatively to employ a specialist to do this for you.

However you do it, brands must have a policy in place to handle negative feedback via social media.  A slow response, or worse, no response can lose you business quickly.

By Iain Martin