We have been looking at many aspects of community management and while the position can be full of exciting experiences, inevitably you will run into a difficult or angry community member. What do you do when your peaceful, friendly, cooperative community is upset by an angry person? You know the type. They start with rude comments and remarks and continue to escalate while they suck your community into their negative vortex. Conflict resolution entails a journey into the unknown. No matter how much we prepare, we can never know for sure how another will react to us or respond to our message. Not surprisingly, this uncertainty leads many to avoid conflict rather than venture into the unknown, but as a community manager you will need the skills to resolve conflicts.
Olivier Blanchard has 15+ years of marketing management experience and gives us some rules to follow in his book Social Media ROI. He offers us some practical advice that is relevant to the position a community manager may find themselves in. Lets take a look at a summary of what he offers –
THE CUSTOMER IS ALWAYS RIGHT – this is the Golden rule of any business. Even if the customer is wrong, they are right. This is where you begin the journey into conflict resolution. When you come up against an angry customer, you never, ever engage in an argument with them, especially online. Imagine the scenario, you post one inflammatory comment to an angry person, what happens next? Don’t think for one moment that an online argument is about finding a resolution or point of agreement. It is a smack down, pure and simple. There will be no victor and you will certainly lose creditability.
Conflict resolution online is very different from the real world experience. If you were face to face with a customer, you would have the opportunity to use your body language as a tool to deal with the situation. You do not have this tool available in an online scenario you are faceless. A best practice would be to take it offline and speak with the customer directly without an audience. Remember to always be polite and treat them with respect regardless of how they behave.
Blanchard states – “Unreasonable customers are not the enemy.” This is a great message to keep in mind. They will help you to grow and develop your communication skills. Take the higher ground and be thankful for this opportunity. We all need to keep practicing to be the best we can be so embrace the challenge. This also gives us the opportunity to practice humility. Blanchard shares that we should not be afraid to apologize, even when we don’t have to. How do you feel when someone is compassionate and apologetic towards you? This is what your customer needs. Reach out to them!
By acknowledging the customers dispute and engaging them in the process to resolution you are well on your way. This would be the time to recruit your customer as a partner in creating the solution. Blanchard suggests that you use this phrase, “I understand your frustration. How can I help?” By asking this question you have engaged them in the process by “shifting them from complaint mode to solution mode.” These best solution will come when the customer is involved. If the customers solution is not reasonable Blanchard suggests that you “apologize and say you can’t do that, but offer another solution.”
Online conflict resolution:
- should always be done calmly and politely
- should be done offline if it will require a more sensitive approach
- should be managed in a professional manner (crowds tend to take sides)
- should use the individuals name when possible
- should recruit your customer into the resolution process
By following these simple guidelines and using your own communication skills, you are on your way to becoming a master of conflict resolutions. What are some ways that you have learned to resolve conflicts? We would like to know so leave a comment.
Until next time, “Happy Trails”!