In an age where everyone’s first response is to ‘take to Twitter’ to lambast perceived poor service, businesses need to know what to do when the going gets tough on social media. Here’s how you should be dealing with social media complaints.
All businesses, even the good ones, receive complaints, so never assume you won’t have to deal with an attack on social media. Have a plan in place for when it happens: Define who will deal with online criticism, decide the steps you’ll take, and outline how you might respond. It’s also important to bear in mind that not all complaints will be directed at your social channels in the form of @mentions or posts to your Facebook page, but that doesn’t make them any less damaging. Reputation management tools like Social Mention and Tweet Deck monitor when your brand is being talked about online and can help you keep on top of what’s being said about you as well as to you.
If someone walked into your business to make a complaint you wouldn’t ignore them, and the same principles apply to social media. Some people worry that responding to negative feedback will draw attention to it, but you’ll actually come off worse if you do nothing. Respond to genuine complaints as quickly as possible – most social media users expect a response within a couple of hours but at the very least you should aim to reply that same day so the individual feels reassured that their comments are being taken seriously. Your response not only lets the complaining customer know that you care and that you’re working towards a resolution, but will show anyone else who sees the complaint that you are professional and don’t neglect your customers.
Move the conversation
Although your initial response should be a public one, it makes sense to carry on the conversation somewhere a little more private. Acknowledge the problem, reassure the customer you’d like to work towards a resolution, then request they send you more details in a message or email. You could ask for a phone number so you can call them directly, but make sure you suggest they send their number in a private message so their personal details aren’t being bandied around for all to see. Once you’ve moved the conversation away from the internet’s prying eyes you can ask for specific details and do what you can to make amends. If the complaint has been made on Twitter, remember that both you and the user must be following each other before direct messages can be exchanged.
Don’t hit delete
When there’s an option to make a negative comment go away (such as on a Facebook page where you have the option to delete or hide comments) it can be tempting. However, if there’s one thing that really riles social media users, it’s their freedom of speech being undermined. Deleting a comment is likely to cause even more of a stir and you’ll appear untrustworthy to other users. You also run the risk of the customer taking their grievance to another platform – one where it could be more difficult to minimise the fall-out. There are exceptions, such as if a comment is defamatory or could be offensive to others, but generally you should keep negative comments – even if you don’t necessarily agree with them.
The tweeter is always right
The old adage ‘the customer is always right’ applies to social media, too. It’s frustrating when somebody makes a complaint you think is unfair, but add that to the potential of it being seen by thousands of people online and you’d be forgiven for wanting to defend your honour. It rarely ends well though – in one of the more extreme cases, a restaurant in Manchester had to delete all its social media pages after a screenshot of its reply to a scathing TripAdvisor review went viral. Calling the group “ugly cheap chav trash” and “the worst, most vile people to ever grace our restaurant” wasn’t wise, and once something’s on the internet, it’s on the internet forever. The safest thing to do is to acknowledge the criticism, and never argue back.
Turn a negative into a positive
Recently I sent a tweet to music streaming service Spotify about a problem I’d experienced with its app. The issue was resolved quickly and when I tweeted to say thank you, it responded with a link to stream the song “You’re Welcome” by the Beach Boys. It was personal, in line with the brand and directed me back to using its service. On a larger scale, O2 gave one of the most infamous masterclasses in handling a social media crisis when it experienced widespread network problems. Its witty responses to angry tweeters received thousands of retweets and new followers, and actually alleviated a lot of the hostility towards the brand. It won’t always be appropriate, but there may be instances like these where you can turn a social media complaint into a positive. At the very least, view it as free customer feedback which can be used to improve your service.
Above all it’s important to remember that a negative comment on social media isn’t the end of the world and most people aren’t going to write your business off because of a single tweet or Facebook post. What counts is how you react.