While it’s tempting to take the easy route and simply delete or block a disgruntled comment, following the high road is a bit like handling an irate customer standing in your office. Except, of course, you can – and should – hit the delete button for offensive, profane, or defamatory posts.
Here are some basic guidelines for dealing with the unhappy customer on social media.
Follow the Boy Scout Motto and Be Prepared
Save yourself the agonizing, “Why didn’t I think of that?” and plan ahead. Create a list of the most common complaints based on your particular industry. Sit down with your customer service people to get feedback. Once you have done this, address each concern with a carefully written response.
Offer a plan in your response to resolve the problem where possible. Don’t offer free services, products, or discounts in a public response. This could encourage complaints from other customers who are looking to capitalize on a similar reward.
Adopt a Customer Mindset
A simple apology, even if the problem isn’t fixable, can change a customer’s negative attitude into a positive one. When writing responses to negative comments, show that you care with The 5 Be’s:
- Be truthful – establish trust with honesty.
- Be polite – always be professional and never rude.
- Be sincere – show a willingness to be open and authentic.
- Be humble – admit any mistakes.
- Be appreciative – never belittle.
Ask yourself, would you be satisfied with this response? Apology psychology is a powerful way to change customer’s attitudes.
Give a Timely Response
Complaints left lingering unanswered for days have immediate negative fallback. This gives the customer the impression you don’t care, as well as the perception that their negative comment is valid, even if it isn’t. Other customers who see such comments might become discouraged, writing you off before ever doing business with you.
Show that you are listening and wait no more than twenty-four hours to respond, if at all possible. When you use negative feedback to make improvements, inform your customer of the changes they helped initiate.
Don’t monitor your social media for only the negative activity. Use positive comments as an opportunity to show your appreciation for their business.
Respond Publicly Once, Then Go Private
While it’s beneficial to respond publicly to negative feedback on Facebook or Twitter, the next step is to handle the issue privately. You’ve demonstrated your desire to address the problem so other customers will know you take their complaints seriously. Now you need to avoid a barrage of tug-of-war posts.
Include in your response an invite to contact you directly with a phone number or email of someone on the response team. This direct approach helps eliminate the “passing the buck” customer service irritant, something you don’t want customers posting in addition to their initial complaints.
Any further negative posts made after you have followed these steps justify deleting the comments or even blocking someone as a user.
Your message is clear.
You will address your customer’s complaints professionally and attentively on the social media channels. Your customers can then use the megaphone of social media to share their happy ending with friends and followers.
Check out AMEX’s infographic on social media and how people use it to make their complaints known.
Let us know your social media stories in the comments below. How did you respond to the virtual megaphone?
Cat photo courtesy of Mikko Luntiala.