During Social Media Week Chicago, I was incredibly honored to participate on a panel discussion “Never Forget the Cherry” sponsored by the Chicago Chapter of the Black Public Relations Society. One of the topics that we covered on the panel dealt with managing irate clients online.
I believe that managing clients online starts with managing their communications via a client communication policy.
Now, the reality is that people think it’s perfectly okay to tweet and tag, pm (private message) and all types of social media fun, even when it comes to business. Sometimes, it is okay. You may want to show some internet love to businesses that you respect – that’s perfectly fine. Where it cross the lines and may become a liability for you is in situations like this:
Business Owner: Whew, I had a long day. So excited that I get to have some family fun at the park.
Client: Sounds like fun. What’s up with my work? Are you done?
Beyond publicly shaming you via your comments thread on Facebook or newsfeed on Twitter, clients may also get into the habit of requesting updates and information regarding their file via instant message. This is why I strongly believe that…
You don’t need to “cyber friend” your clients (or potentials).
After all, that’s what fan pages are for.
Now, I’m sure this might sound a tad jerk-ish to the social media butterflies. But, I will risk sounding jerky for the sake of your business. Some people might be taken aback that you didn’t want to be their friend, online. Others will respect your decision. At the end of the day, however, it’s all about managing expectations.
That is where a client communication policy comes in handy.
If your clients know up front that it is your company policy to not friend them, then your decision won’t feel so personal. Additionally, if they know the concrete-set-in-stone policy for contacting you then they will be less inclined to break the rules. Nine times out of ten if your client is trying to reach you via social media, its because you didn’t tell them how shi# works.
Yep, it’s your fault. Not theirs.
Here are a few tips on what to include in your client communication policy:
- Office hours
- Accepted methods of communication (i.e. phone, email)
- Average turnaround time for missed calls (i.e. do you return calls within 24 hours? 48 hours)
- How emergencies should be answered. (i.e. Is there a special email address for time sensitive matters? Should they state: TIME SENSITIVE in the subject?)
- Unacceptable methods of communication
- Where they can connect with you online (I think LinkedIn is great for folks who do want to connect professionally, online).
- Where they should submit inquiries regarding their account/file
If you have a stubborn (or forgetful) client who doesn’t adhere to the policy. Simply, offer a gentle reminder.
Additional benefits of creating a client communication policy:
- It shows clients that you have mechanisms in place to address their communication needs
- It shows that all clients are treated the same way, and fairly
And, because this is a bLAWg, the legal benefit is that it reduces your liability…
For that rainy day when your clients decide to blame you for missed communications via Facebook or another social media network.
Now, what about the clients who were cyber friends, first? Do you delete them? I don’t delete, but it’s totally up to you. I just make sure they get the policy like everyone else, and adhere to it.
How do you handle client communications?