I had a C-level client approach me recently and ask how to handle multiple negative comments posted at the end of an article about his company. Online it seems, everyone can be a critic, whether through comments placed on articles, Facebook and Twitter or consumer review sites like Consumer Affairs and Yelp.
Regardless of how comfortable you are with social media, as the leader of a bank or credit union, your employees are still your most immediate audience. Many are probably participating in social media daily, even if you aren’t. When online criticism happens-and it will at some point-communicating to employees about the issues first can help keep everyone from getting caught up in fodder from outside sources.
This is sage advice in the event of a small inconvenience, such as a malfunctioning ATM machine, as well as a large-scale crisis like a cyber-attack. By communicating about the problem, the solution, and what you plan to do about it in the short- and long-term, you can help improve employee morale and build team rapport.
To Know or not to Know
Of course, it is natural for executives and staff to look at online criticism sometimes. But if we paid attention to all the critics, we would have issues…perhaps not celebrity-style issues, driven by the press, but issues, nonetheless.
Imagine if every CEO read all the online comments posted about their company. They’d probably go mad. Their staff is also likely reading the online chatter and probably seething. These egregious postings cause unneeded distractions that any company surely does not need.
One recent example would be Jamie Dimon, Chairman of the Board, President & CEO of JPMorgan Chase & Co. who called his shareholders “lazy” at an investors meeting at the end of May, and received a backlash of online criticism. With a steady stream of negative news, the largest bank in the U.S. (with $2.52 trillion in assets) has been heavily criticized by regulators, investors and lawmakers, according to Forbes. Customers have negative things to say too. On Consumer Affairs, 192 out of 212 ratings (from more than 2,000 reviews) from across the country give Chase a “One-Star” overall satisfaction rating.
While a bank or credit union may not be able to address every public comment, depending on the scope of the criticism, a responsible organization stays aware of how it is being perceived by the public. It can then create a social media strategy to correct criticism on a larger scale and manage its reputation, while maintaining employee motivation.
How to Handle Online Criticism
If you are unsure how much to engage with your members or customers, you are not alone: A series of recent studies shows that while executives recognize social media’s tremendous potential, they are not 100% certain how to maximize it, or who should be responsible for it.
Whether you choose to address comments online or disregard them, forget the public, for now. That’s a topic for another article. For now, here are five strategies to help you focus on your employees first:
Strategy #1: Be well aware of criticism-then provide translation. To think there is not chatter-online or offline-happening about your bank or credit union, or misinformation circulating, is to your peril. Know it exists; then provide the right information. Otherwise, employees may think that whatever is posted is correct, and may form opinions based on misinformation. Provide employees with the context so they don’t inaccurately decipher it. This simple exercise of offering clarity to distorted facts can provide value to staff and help employee retention.
Strategy #2: Pay attention to who the critics are, not necessarily what they say. Generally those who make rash comments online are not necessarily your best customers, or your members. Faceless entities with an opinion to post who have not spent time and diligence to understand matters probably have erroneous information.
Strategy #3: Counsel your employees to stay productive and focused on their goals. If you want your banking employees to take online criticism with a grain of salt, be sure to offer clear and accurate information along the way. You might also look to an independent ratings and reviews provider to help you identify verify ratings and reviews to stay involved in the conversation where it matters.
Strategy #4: Communicate and over-communicate. It is important to involve yourself in the communications stream online and offline. As the keeper of facts, vision and clarity, communicating context to your employees can go a long way in debunking any false online propaganda.
Strategy #5: Give employees insights they can believe in-directly from the source. Only you and your team understand all the nuances of a situation. As a financial leader, it’s important to offer information and counsel to employees about online criticism. Navigating the online waters from the top-down can keep morale up, and identify trends about public perception. Then you can figure out a plan for the public.
The way you handle social media complaints reveals an enormous amount about your organization. Assuming you are paying attention to social media comments in the first place-and you should be-you must make the decision to ignore, deny or defend online criticism. But before that, as your first course of action, be sure to carefully consider how you manage and communicate external negativity to your employees. In the end, they are your best line of defense in the battle with online critics.