CUNA MBD Council Coverage: Dealing With Complaints In Social Media

LAS VEGAS–Credit union members have always had complaints. But they’ve never had the kind of public bullhorn to air their grievances like social media has created—and that’s put new pressure on credit unions to respond–quickly.


Andrea Parrish

Andrea Parrish, digital marketing assistant manager with STCU in Spokane, Wash., told the CUNA Marketing and Business Development Council’s annual meeting it may be tempting to dismiss feedback and comments made in social media channels, but doing so isn’t wise: research shows 80%-85% of people expect a response within 24 hours, and most within one hour.

“The expectations are being set for us, and it’s up to us to jump in. But there are implications for us if we don’t,” said Parrish.

Bottom Line Impact

There is another good reason to be involved in social media, Parrish said: if a CU can improve its reputation online it can impact the bottom line by up to $204 per year per member.

“When people are reaching out to you on social media, they are sharing with you what their preferred language is,” said Parrish. “When you respond to them in their preferred language, they are willing to spend money with you out of the respect you have shown.”

Two other research findings that credit unions should remember, according to Parrish: One study found social media had prompted 49% of people to make a purchase, while 34% of people said they prefer social media as their favorite channel.

“If they are preferring social, then you as a credit union need to at least listen to what they are telling you,” said Parrish.

Why Do People Complain in the First Place?

What are people hoping to get by reaching out to a credit union in social media, especially if it’s a complaint?

“When people are complaining online, they are usually trying to tap into the audience,” said Parrish. “When people post they are just trying to get validation for their feelings. All you have to do is validate that need people have to be seen, heard, understood.”

Research shows people complain on line for these reasons, according to Parrish:

  • 73% say just trying to save other people from another bad experience
  • 48% of people say they want a company to be more upfront. They are not saying they want it to change, just saying they wish they had known about a policy, said Parris
  • 48% of people said they wanted a refund
  • 28% of people said they want a gift card
  • 39% of people want a policy to change
  • 39% want an apology
  • 13% are just trying to be trolls

In the case of a credit union, often the member wants a fee returned and nothing more. “When you understand what it is people really want, you can have a much better conversation,” she said.

Parrish cautioned that if the same response is given to a troll as given to everyone else, then the CU is ignoring the “why” of the complaint. Understanding the why allows for the composition of much better responses, said Parrish.

“Empathy is not the only thing you need for a response or complaint,” said Parrish, and that involves having internal and external tools and processes.

External Tools in Social Media

External tools include setting policies and making them publicly known, said Parrish, offering this advice:

  • Set boundaries, such as around language. “If you have guidelines set out and link to it everywhere, no (member) will read it until they’ve been banned, but it won’t feel as” if it’s a personal attack.
  • Acceptable topics, such as must be “family friendly,” must be identified.
  • There must be a policy for the treatment of others.
  • Banning a Commenter. “Provide an explanation of why and how someone is banned.”

Internal Guidelines

Internal policies at the credit union must also be put in place, said Parrish, who reminded that turning off the ability to respond in the credit union’s social media channels means people will likely turn to other forums.

The policies and practices credit unions should have in place internally with social media include, according to Parrish:

  • Have an organizational voice. Is your CU snarky or serious? It’s about the language your credit union uses in written form, said Parrish.
  • Response hours. “It’s tempting to say 24/7, but that raises the risk of burning people out,” said Parrish, noting STCU limits its hours in social media to morning to early evening (and lets members know those hours).
  • Emergency communication and crisis plans. “Whomever is posting on a CU’s social media needs to be in contact with the crisis management team, and there needs to be rules around what gets posted,” said Parrish. “You don’t want an employee posting what they think is going on.”
  • Complaint processes. There has to be a policy and process in place for follow up, including monitoring resolution and response.
  • Step by step guidelines for good reviews, bad reviews, comments, questions, and complaints need to be in place, and they “need to be ridiculously detailed.” The reason, said Parrish, is to create consistency. Parrish’s suggested five steps for responding to social media posts: Breathe, Say Thanks, Correct, Follow Up, and Respond Twice.

“Sometimes the hardest thing to do is say thank you, but every time someone complains they are giving you a gift. They are giving you the time to respond, even if you’re not changing anything.”
Parrish said the responsibility for follow up is with the credit union, not the member.

Communication & Coordination

Credit unions must communicate across all departments and cannot silo social media, warned Parrish.
“You must have a system for cross-department communication. However you set it up, you want some sort of coordination process so you don’t have members coming to you in social media and then coming to a branch and they get different answers,” said Parrish. “As soon as you silo social media you are siloing your member experience.”

Who Does the Work?

Finding the right person(s) to handle a credit union’s social media channels requires thought and smart HR policies, according to Parrish, who noted those who work in social media do a high amount of emotional labor.

“It can be an extraordinary taxing job. Very often, social media is a high responsibility, low authority position,” said Parrish. “When we set people up with little authority you are setting them up for failure.”

Social media is 24x7, and that can lead to a lot of burnout, said Parrish, if a credit union isn’t careful.

How to Deal?

So how to deal with all the challenges of emotional labor and long hours?
Parrish suggests in the short term there be a very clear separation between work and personal life, and the best way to do that is to have separate phones.

“Two separate phones are a literal physical separation between work and personal, and it means you are giving a huge gift to this person,” said Parrish. “It’s less than $100 a month, and any social media person’s sanity is worth $100 a month.”

There also needs to be some sort of definition of “success,” including making clear there are certain types of messages that do not need an immediate response (and also makes clear the time for which the person will be paid).

In the longer term, a credit union needs to have back-up person(s) and some sort of off-call schedule—meaning it’s OK to turn off the phone at certain times in the name of giving a “mental break,” said Parrish.

Other Reminders

Parrish acknowledged that in a smaller credit union having a social media backup person can be a challenge, but said there is usually someone who can be trained to take over in the event of an emergency.

A final piece: the credit union must be willing to pay. Social media freelancers charge $25 to $120 per hour, said Parrish.

Social media in house runs $45,000 to $97,000 per year. “In this position you don’t necessarily want someone who is in their first year,” said Parrish.

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Copyright Year: 2019
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