October 21, 2010
Credit Union Management’s online-only “Inside Marketing” column runs the third Thursday of every month.
I just returned from a couple of speaking engagements, one in Atlantic City (2010 New Jersey Credit Union League Conference) and the other in San Antonio (2010 National Firefighters Credit Union Conference), where I presented strategic ways public relations and social media tactics can enhance your credit union’s leadership position and trust levels with its members and prospects. Both talks had plenty of audience interaction with great questions.
One question that came up repeatedly pertained to negative feedback credit unions might receive when venturing out to the social media channels, such as Facebook wall posts, Twitter replies, or blog comments. One audience member described her fear of critical comments about her credit union displayed on sites like Facebook or Twitter that thousands of other followers could view. She asked how you would handle a possibly damaging situation like that -- which is a valid fear among most companies thinking of using social media as a complementary marketing tool.
My response was, “Good, I’m glad credit unions have negative responses from their members!” The audience was a bit shocked by my response.
Here’s the deal: This disgruntled member is following you probably because they like you and like what your credit union has to offer. (92 percent of folks on Facebook are brand advocates, according to this AdWeek story.) If they see something wrong, they’re going to speak up. Good for them, I say.
Now, this is your opportunity -- a huge opportunity, I might add -- to show them what you’re made of: quick, compassionate, and thorough member service. This is a chance to turn a negative into a positive. A chance to turn that miffed member into an empowered ambassador for your credit union. How could you not think of this situation as a positive?
Embrace the negativity -- and fix it.
When you respond to a negative reply, post, or comment in a timely fashion, it not only shows that person, along with everybody else following on whatever network is being used, that you are listening and you are taking action. You are taking the steps to remedy the situation. The key here, however, is to respond as quickly as you can to the negative response and remain in contact with that person, letting them know the steps you are taking to resolve the issue.
If you don’t respond and work with this person, the negativity has an opportunity to take on a life of its own and spread, which will result in a gouging dent to your shiny image. Your credit union will look like a shallow, non-responsive, uncaring business -- even though it’s not. With all that’s happened in the banking/investment industry over the past couple of years, you don’t want that. Those firms still have a long way to go to regain the public’s trust.
That said, you have to be proactive and already listening to your audience to respond. This listening practice allows you to respond to both negative and positive feedback in a timely manner. In this instance, you’ve listened to the negative comment, addressed it and taken the steps to resolve the member’s issue. You joined the conversation and have taken a lead role in controlling the message.
(An important point to remember about social media: The conversation is going to go on with or without you, so you might as well join in.)
Once the issue has been resolved, you obviously let that person know the outcome. As a result, you will most likely have a fan who has a reaffirmed belief in your credit union because you went to great lengths to help them -- listening and willing to take action. That’s fantastic service. And that person will probably go out to his or her circle of friends and talk about it. That’s A+ branding.
As a huge bonus, everybody else who has been following along has seen the actions taken and the issue resolved. Most of those folks -- hundreds, if not thousands -- may talk about what happened with their friends, family and probably spread the word through their social media channels creating a lasting ripple effect throughout their networks. That might be the best marketing possible -- and it all started from a negative comment.
Embrace the negativity and create opportunities for change. It builds trust, leadership and, ultimately, your business.
One other note to consider:
Before social media’s impact on today’s society, many of these negative comments were handled in a one-on-one situation -- either over the phone, in person or via a letter. There’s nothing wrong with any of these correspondence channels, as long as the issue was resolved and the member was happy. But the point is, if the issue was resolved through stellar member service, who knew about it? Who else knew about this great service besides the now-satisfied member, his or her family and friends, and the credit union?
Back in the day, that was probably it -- just a few people. And along with it was a wasted opportunity to show your members and prospects what you’re made of. Today, with the viral tsunami called social media, everybody knows. Opportunities abound to deliver your message of fantastic service -- even if somebody isn’t totally satisfied. It’s time to show how your credit union can turn a negative into a positive, an unhappy member into a brand advocate.
So don’t fear those critical comments, embrace them.
Mike Lawson, principal of the PR/marketing firm DML Communications, has two decades of journalism, public relations and marketing experience. His unique and robust knowledge allows him to meet the varied needs of editors, end-users and clients. Lawson's expertise enables him to enhance his clients' market exposure through media relations, social media tools, advertising efforts, target marketing strategies and more. He also speaks on PR, marketing and media issues to audiences nationwide. For more info, visit www.dmlcommunications.com.