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Latest 25 Apr 2017 | Customer Service | 7 min read

Having a Preparedness Plan for Social Storms

Grab your raincoat. There’s a major tweetstorm in the forecast. Social media weathermen and women are always busy preparing for the heavy tweetstorm, or a collection of tweets sent in succession, typically written while the author is especially emotional. The current president of the United States is infamous for getting himself soaked by his downpour. As are many customers faced with an urgent problem. Because for customers with in-the-moment issues, when it rains, it pours.

If a customer’s expectation is negatively blown out of the water, social media channels are often the spaces frustrated customers turn to to publicly vent. They get internet angry. They “Name and Shame,” immediately reaching for their phones, equipped with 140 characters or more to launch an attack directed at a brand for its poor service, hoping to feel a sense of digital solidarity with the Twitter community.

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 The aftermath of cyclonic complaints can make or break customer loyalty to brands. A CEB study found that when a customer has an issue that is made worse with a high-effort service interaction, that customer is 3.93x more likely to churn than if they had a positive experience. Which means brands can’t afford to let these expressive whirlwinds go unprepared for.

Even though storms can be unpredictable, these threads of negative messages are no storm a company’s social customer service team cannot weather with the proper plan in place. Having a preparedness plan that your team knows and uses can help you and your company stay dry. The following brand stories show how having the right preparedness plans allowed the teams to withstand these social service storms, resolve customer issues in lightening speed and ultimately retain customers and business. 

Problem: Poor customer experience
For a blogger and customer of a popular beauty brand, there were no blue skies on the horizon after she had a subpar store experience. The customer took to Twitter when she visited a store and found the experience to be bothersome in more ways than one. Over three consecutive Tweets, the customer explained how the smell of the products in the store were too strong her nose and used the public venue to continue her rant about how the in-store team was too aggressive with their sales support to her.

Even though storms can be unpredictable, Tweet storms are ones a company’s social customer service team can weather with the proper plan in place.

Plan: Respond quickly and address the concern publicly by asking the customer to take the conversation private
The customer service agent who was routed this thread recognized the negativity of these messages and quickly reacted with a plan. The agent prompted the customer to privately reply over Direct Message with information about which store she normally visits so that the agent could pass the feedback along to the experience team at that store.

The agent’s quick triage of the situation prevented the customer from continuing her public rant and causing potential harm to the brand’s image. This method also allows future customers with service issues to see public tweets from the brand that show the brand cares about triaging the issue, but will ultimately be resolving the issue privately. More importantly, the ease of the interaction with the brand resolved in a positive way. At the end of the interaction, the customer mentioned how she looked forward to being a store shopper again in the future as a result of the interaction. Clear skies ahead!


Problem: Public, visible customer comments can produce a “groupthink” atmosphere, which can escalate a customer’s emotion and his issue
Even though the namesake of tweetstorm phenomenon comes from Twitter, customers can exhibit this same behavior on brand’s Facebook pages. And temperamental comments can spread like wildfire. In particular, one customer experienced a delivery draught when she ordered an item as a gift for Mother’s Day and was embarrassed when the time-sensitive gift was not delivered after she paid extra to guarantee delivery on the holiday. The customer took to the company’s Facebook page and posted a repetitive series of complaints about how embarrassed she was.

But upon arriving on the brand’s page, the customer noticed a Mother’s Day promotional post was receiving numerous other complaints from customers experiencing similar issues due to the high order volume for the holiday. The public nature of emotional messages can be risky for creating a groupthink mentality amongst your customers. One person’s reactionary comment might be much more severe than others and could lead to fast and emotional escalation or change-in-perception of the situation for some who might not have felt so strongly originally.


Plan: Asses the situation with personalization to prevent escalation
In an effort to save the relationships and turn the customer’s emotions around, agents began asking for phone numbers to call customers to personally apologize, and offered a refund or free delivery for the next day. Depending on the result of the phone calls, agents followed up the next day over social to ensure the delivery was made and met expectations given the situation. The agents were able to assess the situation and act in a way that prevented any escalation in an already difficult situation.


Problem: Industry issues are normal for agents to triage, but far from normal for customers to experience
For telecommunications companies, slow broadband speeds are cause for regular complaints. After one customer had several visits from an engineer to resolve his slow speed issue in person, after months of frustration, the customer took to Twitter when the issue still loomed as unresolved.

The social service agent initially responded to gather more information about the issue, but the customer was already so frustrated that he went on for three Tweets about how the issue has been unresolved for months, was unacceptable given what he paid for the services and finally, how exhausting the whole difficult service interaction had been, having to chase down the company on multiple channels to get anywhere.


Plan: Respond with empathy and humanity
The agent immediately recognized how frustrating and difficult this problem was for the customer to resolve, and responded apologetically, empathetically and with an agent signature to ensure the customer knew he wasn’t interacting with a cold bot. Showing humanity and emotion in these times can really help make a dark situation seem a little brighter. But more importantly, showing personalized care can be empathetic but also efficient. The agent publicly requested that the customer provide his account number via DM, which allowed the agent to see the previous interactions and better assess how to expedite the issue to the appropriate team who could solve this customer’s problem.

The quick reply and tone expressed by the agent helped to improve the sentiment of a conversation that was quickly getting thunderous. The agent was able to have a positive outlook, which gave the customer more trust and loyalty to the relationship moving forward.


Any climate around the world has potential risk for detrimental weather. From a bitter blizzard to a bone-dry drought, there’s likely to be something in the global forecast meteorologists will need to prepare their residents for. And the same goes for all brands. No matter the brand or story, as a consumer society, there’s always going to be customer service storms brands need to prepare for. But that doesn’t mean these consecutive complaints on social can’t be resolved with the proper steps and plan in place.

When your customers feel like they’re stuck in the eye of the storm and create additional Tweet or Facebook storms, remember to respond quickly, move the conversation to a private message if possible, show the customer personalization and be empathetic to their issues. When issues are handled this way, your customers will surely be singin’ in the rain.

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