Managing Negative Comments on Social Media

A study from J.D. Power found that 67% of consumers used social media for customer service issues. Unfortunately far too many brands regularly ignore comments from customers who took the time to reach out because they don’t have the time or resources to properly manage their channels or their community manager does not know how to properly address and engage with the customer.

All businesses should have a social media customer service protocol in place for how their community manager will respond to both positive and negative comments. There is value and opportunity in both, and in the long run it pays to take the time to respond thoughtfully.

With respect to negative comments – sometimes you cannot avoid a bad review or customer complaint. It’s difficult to please everyone. People and companies make mistakes. Products and services don’t live up to customer expectations. But the chance of negative comments should not be a deterrent to using social media for your business. In fact, this should be an incentive! Chances are your customers are already talking about you on social media, and by being active on social media you have the chance to be part of the conversation.

Responding Over Social Media Platforms

With the level of accessibility that social media now provides, it’s easier than ever for customers to make a complaint in the heat of the moment, right from their smartphone. If an angry customer reaches out to you through a tweet or Facebook comment, the whole world can see the post. However, everyone can also see how you handle the situation – and they are paying attention to the way you respond. Of course, the first step is ensuring the complaint is coming from an actual customer and it’s not spam. If so, here are some ways to address the issue:

  • View it as an opportunity. These public objections can be transformed into a marketing opportunity, if handled correctly. People pay attention to negative posts; and when dealt with appropriately, these comments offer your company the chance to gain you not one loyal customer, but many.
  • Reply through the same channel. If a customer complains over Twitter, reply to the tweet. Your public apology will be saved in the chain for followers to see. The same method applies to Facebook – reply to customer wall posts or comments.
  • Follow up. Offer the customer the opportunity to connect offline – whether through a call center or in store. And don’t be afraid to ask for feedback. Was the issue resolved to their liking? Would they come back again in the future? If not, what else can be done to change their mind?

How to Deal with Negative Comments

A recent article in the Globe and Mail reads, “For every customer who complains, there are many more equally disappointed [customers] who don’t bother to communicate that to you. So each complaint should be considered even more important, because the problem is likely more widespread than a single occurrence.”

Not to mention, customers whose complaints are handled well can end up being even more loyal to your business than those whom experienced a smooth transaction the first time around. We tend to remember those times when something went wrong better than those that let us carry on with our day, unaffected. So how do you handle these negative comments?

  • Be humble and understanding. Show the customer that you understand he or she is disappointed and has been inconvenienced.
  • Recognize what went wrong. Sometimes, a simple apology can go a long way.
  • Overcompensate. Offer a free add-on, gift card or discount in exchange for the trouble.
  • Welcome the customer back. Telling a once disgruntled customer you hope to see them again will make them feel appreciated and more likely to return for service in the future.

Some angry customers may be passed the point of pleasing – and if that’s the case, there may not be a whole lot you can do to change their mind. But most people appreciate simply receiving acknowledgement of their complaint. A short tweet can go a long way. Try it out and see for yourself.

Editor’s Note: This blog was originally published in May 2013 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness. 

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