How to respond on social media presents a challenge for many businesses.
Some businesses do not think they need to listen to your customers and react to negative comments. Some of these comments might not actually be a customer.
Either way, you need to be able to deal with a range of responses that arise.
Chances are if you think that your company is one of the lucky few that has yet to receive any, it only means you haven’t seen it. (Most likely, your customers simply didn’t tag you in their posts, leaving you blissfully unaware of any problems.)
So what do you do when you receive (or find) negative feedback on social, for all to see? Don’t despair – all is not lost.
How To Respond On Social Media Tips
The first rule you need to do is learn to be patient and do your homework. Before you fire off any messages or respond to any posts consider the following guidelines to help you monitor and manage negative comments and complaints.
- Track all complaints on a regular basis so you have a benchmark level. If complaints start to rise you know you need to investigate your service or product.
- Quickly respond in public, be polite and respectful
- Keep a positive position without being insincere or in denial publicly
- Each complaint is different so deal with it promptly and privately
This simple rules will stop things escalating and becoming a major PR disaster.
#1. Find the feedback
The first and most important step is to monitor your brand online – understand your brand reputation.
Customers will often make this easy by sending you negative feedback directly, or they’ll tag your business/service or product in a post.
However, sometimes you won’t know if you aren’t tagged.
Only 3% of people who complain about a company on-line will actually tag that company in their posts.
Social listening can help you stay on top of your brand reputation by alerting you to any negative online mentions of your brand.
#2. Assess the Situation
Is someone a troll? Or are they a legitimate customer with a complaint? (There’s a difference between a complaint and an insult, especially in terms of how they should be handled.)
- If you’re the victim of trolling, exercise caution. Trolls feed on negativity, and their criticism is rarely constructive. Most of the time, I’ll advocate for responding to negative (and positive!) feedback, but trolling is the rare instance where I’d strongly suggest that you take a step away from the situation and give it some space. For your own good, do not feed trolls.
Dealing with Valid Complaints and Trolls
So many people want to know how to respond on social media.
First of all, let’s look at the two types of negative comments that you need to respond to.
The first are those complaints that are valid Real complaints are problems that customers are having that you need to address.
It is your chance to demonstrate that customers are important, that you care about the quality of service and want to be helpful and fix any issues in your business.
When a customer complaint is genuine it will probably arise through one of your social media channels – the key is to take action quickly.
Many people now expect a quick response on channels like Twitter. Respondents to The Social Habit who have ever attempted to contact a brand, product, or company through social media for customer support, 32% expect a response within 30 minutes. Remarkably, 42% expect a response within 60 minutes.
Is your company prepared to handle social media inquiries within the hour?
- document the comment (it may get deleted) so you can keep track of the conversation.
- Take time to come up with an appropriate response.
- Don’t make it personal.
- The customer is often looking for help and offering you the opportunity to correct a mistake.
- Handle the issue carefully, respectfully and politely – do not use any inflammatory language.
If you take this approach you will most likely gain your customer’s trust and continued loyalty and they will become a raving fan.
Dealing with Trolls
What are trolls? Well, Trolls are members of the public are not customers and unrelated to your business.
The worst part though is that they use very emotive language to get you to react, and if do indeed react then they have won.
Trolls are attention seekers and thrive on gaining public responses.
Typically they themselves have small networks but rely on your span of influence to get attention.
To take the wind out of their sail you need to not let them use your social media channels.
The tone you use to respond determines how you will be perceived.
So be keep the mood light and friendly. If there is a genuine problem, admit it.
Use your customer service policy here: the customer is always right (unless it is a completely unfounded complaint).
- Send an apology on the particular social media site. This will help because you might have more than one customer with the same problem.
- Contact the customer privately and solve the details behind the problem (each service/product is different but go the extra mile and give some bonus to make up for the problem).
- Openly share how your plan to solve the problem and the time scale to do it.
- Explain with the appropriate amount of detail what went wrong.
- Also, explain what preventative measures you will put in place so customers won’t have the same problem again. The more transparent you are here, the more trust you will gain from your customers.
- Learn to respond appropriately and effectively to negative comments on social media sites, your customers will be happy to support you even more.
If you need to find out which social media tools then check out the startup tools section.
#3. Document the problem
For the same reasons that the police will document and photograph a crime scene, you should too, because:
- Evidence disappears. The negative feedback could be tampered with (there might be a bug on the page, or the message could be edited) and then you won’t know what it was truly about.
- The customer behind the original post could feel remorse later about posting negative feedback on social and delete it. (In case you think this solves your problem, it doesn’t. The problem’s still there. You just won’t know about it if you didn’t already see the message. Having a problem and not knowing about it is 10X worse.)
Documenting negative feedback will also give you something concrete to use for training purposes later. Both current and future team members can learn from this exchange, so keep it on file. It’s pretty much a guarantee that you’ll refer back to it later.
#4. Respond thoughtfully
- Acknowledge the problem – If it’s not an issue you can address immediately, just let your customers know that you’ve seen their message. A generic “Hi _____, we’re really sorry to hear about this. We’re working on a fix now!” will suffice when making initial contact. It’s certainly better than no response at all.
Keep in mind that an impersonal response like the one above only goes for situations that cannot be immediately addressed. If it’s something that can be taken care of right away, then:
- Address the problem – After following steps #1-3, if you already know how to handle things and are able to offer a solution, please skip ahead to step #5 and follow up.
#5. Follow up
- Apologize – Is your company at fault? Apologize. Acknowledge the inconvenience that you’ve caused your customers and you’ll save yourself a lot of trouble ahead. Even if the situation wasn’t directly caused by your company, but is still connected to your brand, now isn’t the time to search for excuses.
- Make up for it – If possible, offer the customer something to make up for their inconvenience. If applicable, you could extend their membership free of charge, offer them a free upgrade, or replace a product that has failed to live up to its standards.
The point is, you need to do everything you can to decrease customer dissatisfaction. And visibly, for all to see. This way, audiences who may have seen the original piece of negative feedback also have a chance to see the professional way that your company handles it.
Things happen. If you haven’t run into negative on-line feedback yet, it’s just a matter of time.
This is a fact that both companies and customers are aware of, so while your customers won’t be completely surprised by a malfunction (not to say that they won’t still be disappointed), they will be eagerly awaiting your response.
How you handle the situation is of utmost importance. A small token of your appreciation for their support can go a long way in maintaining it. Need I remind you?
It costs 5X more to acquire a new customer than it does to retain an existing one.
#6. Keep monitoring
So, you’re on top of things and have followed through with the first 5 steps of your action plan for handling negative on-line feedback: you’ve found the feedback, acknowledged the problem, documented it, apologized and made up for any inconveniences, and followed-up with the customers as necessary. Phew.
You’ve been busy, but it doesn’t really stop there. An integral part of your success depends on your relationship with your customers, and this is definitely worth investing in.
Continue to track what your customers say about your brand on-line and handle any new negative feedback that comes up.
Monitor mentions of your brand with a social listening tool like Brand24 to receive real-time alerts of any negative on-line feedback about your company.
Keep in mind: customers don’t always tag businesses in their posts, negative or positive. But this doesn’t mean that they don’t expect a response.
Dealing with or preparing to deal with negative feedback? Refer to the infographic up top. Use it and respond to your customers.
Behind each piece of negative feedback is a real person.
When your customers feel like they’ve been prioritized (can you really afford not to?), and you’ve done all that you possibly can to make it up to them, this won’t go unnoticed.
Even though it might have started with negative feedback, the way you handle it (and the key is to respond) can actually help you build trust for your brand among your audience – including dissatisfied customers.
Monitor your brand on a regular basis to ensure you react quickly to customers and to manage your brand reputation.