One of the main barriers businesses face when interacting with their customers on social media is negativity. Whether this is in the form of negative comments, decreasing numbers of followers, unhappy customers or complaints, dealing with negative reactions on social media at some point is inevitable.
The important thing to remember is that by having a business account you are opening yourself up to criticism. However, if you’re confident in your product/services then there is no reason to be concerned about customer complaints. You can’t please everyone all of the time and dealing with complaints is part of being in business.
At the same time, having a stream of negative comments and interactions on your newsfeed or timeline isn’t good for business and can help shape people’s perception of your organisation.
So how do you deal with complaints on social media in an ethical way?
1. Never delete a negative comment
If you do receive a negative comment or response to one of your posts don’t delete it. Instead, think of it as an opportunity to turn the situation around.
When you get into the realms of deleting comments you might get accused of censorship and upset more users in the long run. People have a right to not like your business, that is their decision to make. Similarly, users have a right to offer their opinions on social media without being censored.
The obvious exception to this is if the post is in violation of the platform’s terms and conditions, i.e. offensive, racist, contains swearing, etc.
2. Respond if you can
A study by RightNow, found that when customers received a response to their complaint on social media, almost half of them were pleased by the company’s interaction, and 22% subsequently posted a positive comment about the company or brand.
While some larger organisations will find it impossible to respond to every comment, SMEs with a smaller following should realistically be able to use social media to get involved in conversations with their followers.
Each situation should be judged on an individual basis. In some cases you will get users who are just negative people who are looking for an argument, in these situations you will need to use your best judgment to decide if it is worth responding. In this instance the situation can often spiral out of control, impacting more users’ perceptions of your organisation and damaging your reputation.
On other occasions you will experience genuine customer complaints. In these cases it is always best practice to respond. Social media is an effective tool for feedback that is often under utilised by businesses. If someone has a genuine complaint about your organisation or products/services you should use the opportunity to find out why and put it right.
3. Take the conversation offline
Once you do get into the realms of responding to complaints on social media you don’t want your newsfeed to be taken up with Ms. X giving you the ins and outs of her order while you try to come to an agreement.
The most efficient way to resolve a complaint on social media is to take the conversation out of the public eye. You can do this by responding to the initial comment and asking the user to send you a direct message. This means that you can have an in-depth conversation with the customer to get feedback and come to a resolution.
For larger organisations, or where there is more than one social media manager, it is important to put a framework in place so that customer complaints are dealt with in the same way. This will help you to deliver a uniform service and stay on brand.
4. Don’t take it personally
If a customer takes issue with your organisation it is nothing against you personally, although sometimes it can feel that way. Remember not to take things personally and to remain professional. Chances are that the customer had no idea who you are and their complaint is concerning the organisation you work for. This can be particularly difficult for small businesses and sole traders to grasp when so much of their time and effort goes into running their business, and it is very easy to get defensive.
The most important thing to remember when dealing with negativity on social media is to remain professional and polite, other users are watching and judging the interaction.