How to Handle Complaints on Social Media | Social Joey

To say “We’ve all been there” is to state one of the most obvious facts of being a human in the 21st Century: When it comes to being a consumer, you may have never used the phrase “Let me speak to your manager,” but we’ve all certainly complained about a product or a service at some point in our lives.

If you’re a business owner, you know all too well that handling those complaints properly can provide your business some of the most honest and constructive feedback. It is undeniable that listening to what your customers have to say, whether it’s good, bad or ugly, is important for your business. When it comes to social media, however, you’re not the only one listening; every person who owns a computer or smartphone can hear it too. While this may make some business owners nervous, how you respond and handle the situation can create a tremendous opportunity, because everyone is watching how you react.

First things first: do not ignore or delete negative comments.

Dismissing someone’s experience or how they feel about their experience is just asking for additional backlash. As the old saying goes, “Hell hath no fury like an ignored customer…” or something like that. You’ll likely find that giving the cold shoulder to someone’s review or removing their comment from your Facebook page will only fan the flame of their anger, and ultimately bring more attention to the problem. If it gets ugly enough, they, along with their friends, can create a firestorm on social media that could be extremely damaging to your business. Don’t let that happen. Jump on the grenade fast and early.

Reply quickly.

Did you know that 78% of people that complain on Twitter expect a response within one hour? The moment when you spot the fire is the exact moment it should be put out. Even if you don’t have an immediate resolution to the issue, at least acknowledge that you have seen their comment, inform them that you’re looking into the situation and then provide a timeline for when they should expect to hear back from you.

Respond like a person who is responding to a person.

Yes, the above phrase sounds a little odd, but track with us here: Nothing is worse than the classic auto-response. You know those “hold” messages when you call to report an outage? Thank you for contacting ABC company. Your call is very important to us. Please continue to hold and a representative will be right with you. Everyone hates those, and those same generic responses on social media create the same type of feelings from your customers. Your social media is a place for you to interact with your customers in real time so speak to them on Facebook like you would speak to them face-to-face. Apologize for how it impacted them. Express your sincere remorse for the emotional toll it took on them, the time it cost them for the inconvenience and whatever else the issue may have birthed, and sign off on your response as yourself, not as your company.

Let them know you will resolve their problem

It’s fine and well to apologize, but no one cares about your apology if you don’t offer a solution. Social media is an extension of your business’s customer service policy so treat online complaints similarly to how you would handle them in person. Your business already has a contingency plan in place for a customer complaint in your store, so that should be the foundation of your strategy on social as well. If someone complains about their food coming out wrong, you offer them a discount on the price of their next meal just like you would if they were standing in your building. If they need to return a shirt but don’t have a receipt, you can still offer a store credit and give them information on how to return the item at their nearest location. As a general rule, if you can verify that an online complaint is real, always do what you can to make things right online before directing the customer offline to finish solving their issue. This is one of the most positive PR moves your company can make as you are not only helping one customer, but you are showing the world on social media that you care for your customers and ensure they have a good experience with your brand.

Take ownership of the problem or mistake.

Even if it’s not your fault or the fault of your employees, something went wrong and the customer isn’t happy. Never be patronizing, but in no uncertain terms, make known that a mistake did occur and that the company was at fault (even if it wasn’t). Your message will be received on much more merciful ears if you own up to that fact instead of passing blame or sidestepping responsibility altogether. Something as simple as apologizing for “a misunderstanding” can go a long way in soothing an angry customer and getting the conversation offline as quickly as possible.

Try not to take it personally.

When someone voices an aggravation, they are annoyed at the situation, not at you. Whether the situation is costing them time, energy or something else, it is a serious inconvenience for them to deal with the problem and an even further disturbance to let you know about it. Rather than getting upset, be thankful they even took the time to give you the feedback. Even if you don’t feel like you have done anything wrong, customer perception is everything, and a complaint means that something, somewhere did not go how it should in their minds.

If and when a consumer tweets @yourbusiness, remember what they are looking at: a screen. They are not looking at your face, your colleagues or employees. When they express their concern, they are directing their attack at a “bad guy:” the headquarters of the big, bad corporation (even if you are a mom-and-pop shop), not the people and faces that make up your business. This gives you a unique opportunity to put a face on your business and relate to your customer on a personal level. At the end of the day the customer just wants to be heard by another human who sympathises with the trouble they have had. Be that person for them.

Follow up.

If you really want to exceed expectations and turn a bad experience into a positive one, reach out to the person after you’ve resolved the problem. A simple “Hi Joe. We just wanted to make sure the replacement reached you and that you’re satisfied with it” will do. This further establishes that you care about the customer and their experience while also showcasing your ability to resolve problems quickly. They, and those who are following the story, will be impressed you went out of your way to check in on them. This also increases the chance that this customer will tell their story online and praise the excellent customer service they received.

Be proactive.

Want to know what people are saying about you? Look up your business every now and then on Google to see if you are missing reviews on a site that you may not be tracking. Log onto Twitter or Facebook and type your company name into the search bar and see if customers are talking about you without actually tagging your business. Respond to people that didn’t tag you in their post or tweet @yourbusiness. If you want to use a tool for this, there are endless amounts of services that monitor the major channels for non-tagged posts about your company. Imagine what a pleasant surprise they will have to know that what they’ve said has been heard and will be remedied. Keep your ear close to the ground, act timely and appropriately and you will quickly become known for your outstanding customer service.

Social media is one of the most beneficial marketing and communication tools for any business. If your business needs help managing social media, contact Social Joey today to connect with our team about managing your social assets and helping meet your business needs!