Learning how to handle social media complaints successfully should be a top priority for any business that wants to survive in the information age.
Most social media users interact with brands in a positive way, but there’s plenty of negative feedback being posted every day. Under social media’s veil of anonymity, disgruntled customers can vent their anger with great pleasure and zero consequence.
Consequently, it’s important to know how to defuse the situation before it gets ugly. Taking the right steps can help humanize your brand, creating brand ambassadors and long-term loyalty.
10 Guidelines on how to handle social media complaints successfully:
Step 1. Be prepared for social media complaints
Prompt responses to social media complaints show that a brand cares about its customers. It’s a good idea to have a game plan ready for complaints or criticism on social media. You must accept that even the best-run businesses will experience social media complaints at some point in time, and having an action plan in place will make all the difference.
It’s impossible to please everyone, so don’t take it personally when a consumer is less than 100 percent happy with your product or service. Try to put yourself in your customer’s shoes and empathize with them about the problem. Listen attentively while they talk and don’t interrupt or hurry the customer along. Be prepared to really listen to your customers.
Step 2. Determine the types of social media complaints
What are the types of social media complaints that you often see in your business? Make a list of customer queries or complaints, and their appropriate answers or action items, and circulate this list with your staff. For example, you might see queries like these in a subscription programme:
- Request for more information about the programme
- Request to join programme
- Request for banking details
- Request feedback on online registration. Customer joined on website and was either unable to register, did not get membership number or is still waiting on communication from us.
- Request for confirmation of payment(s)
- Request to correct details captured incorrectly
- Request for delivery time
- Request for update on delivery
According to Mashable, there are four primary types of negative feedback:
- Straightforward problems: There is a problem with a product or service, and the customer can pinpoint what went wrong.
- Constructive criticism: A customer respectfully mentions a way that a product/service or your business, in general, can improve.
- Merited attack: Your company did something wrong, and someone is angry about it.
- Trolling: Someone is deliberately being difficult for no real reason other than to get a reaction or make your company look bad.
In case of negative feedback, proceed to step 3.
In case of positive feedback, proceed to step 5.
Step 3. Offer a timely, legitimate public apology
Never ignore negative feedback, or prolong your response to it. Ideally, you should respond to a complaint within four hours. This will help ameliorate the situation because the consumer will feel their opinion is valued. Waiting several days conveys that your business doesn’t care about its consumers and that complaints aren’t taken seriously.
The first three types of complaints warrant an apology. As the saying goes, “The customer is always right.” In reality, sometimes the customer is wrong, but it’s the responsibility of business owners to keep a cool head and respond intelligently and professionally. Even if the complaint is ridiculous, it’s best to take the high road.
You might say something like:
“I’m sorry that our product or service didn’t meet expectations or that you’re unhappy with our performance. I would be happy to work with you to resolve the issue.”
If possible, you should include the first name to show the customer that they have your complete attention.
Leave a comment on the complainant’s Facebook post or sending a tweet to accomplish these two things:
- First, the complaining consumer knows that you care and that some resolution will be coming.
- Second, it shows anyone looking at your company’s social media profile that you are professional and don’t neglect customers.
The only exception is for trolling when people try to lure you into a confrontation even when your business has done nothing wrong. Trolls can be identified as a complainant who is not a direct customer or who proceeds to complain on your social media page despite all necessary steps being taken to resolve the situation. In this situation, it’s best to ignore the feedback, remove the comment or respond with a request to take things offline: “Please inbox us your contact details so that we can resolve the situation to your satisfaction.”
Step 4. Move the conversation to a private place
After addressing negative feedback head on, it’s a good idea to discuss matters further in an environment where thousands of eyes aren’t focused on the conversation. Doing so will give the customer the attention they seek without publicly displaying every detail. This also serves to protect the customer’s personal information.
Typically, email correspondence or phone conversations work best because a customer can explain their situation and vent if they need to, and you can work on a resolution directly. This is the time to ask for specifics about the complaint, including what’s wrong with the product/service or why the customer had a bad experience.
Straightforward problems and constructive criticism are relatively easy to handle because a specific catalyst has prompted the complaint. In these cases, point out that you’re thankful that the customer brought the issue to your attention; then do whatever you can to resolve it.
Despite the inconvenience, you could benefit in the long run, because you can take measures to ensure it doesn’t happen again. Your actions following one of these two complaints can have big repercussions for the business.
If it’s a merited attack, it can be a bit trickier to deal with. Because issues can vary, this can require some diplomacy and compromise to ensure that the customer is satisfied. Explain that adequate measures will be taken to prevent the same thing from happening again. Thank them for their feedback, and do whatever you can to make amends.
Step 5: Provide information quickly & easily
Respond as soon as possible in all circumstances. It is very important for you to instill a culture of dealing with everything right away. In this highly competitive and globalized world where you’re not only facing local but also international competition, it is very important for you to ensure your employees are efficient because their efficiency is what will lead to a better reputation in the business world, therefore attracting more customers. Let’s not forget, because of these social networking websites it’s gotten very easy to monitor a company’s performance online, so you better be fast.
According to the White House Office of Consumer Affairs, Washington, DC, Happy customers who get their issue resolved in time, tell about 4 to 6 people about their experience. This shows us how important it is to act in time as it really acts as a good marketing tool. This rule applies to not only the good posts but also to the bad ones.
Step 6: Listen Attentively to the Complaint before Taking Action
Typically, a dissatisfied consumer will tell between 9 and 15 people about their experience but about 13% dissatisfied customers tell more than 20 people (Source: White House Office of Consumer Affairs, Washington, DC). So make sure you don’t irritate a customer who’s already dissatisfied with you or your company. With these customers, you can’t afford to make more mistakes.
Read the query/complaint very carefully and ensure that you get everything it’s saying before you get to the responding bit.
Remember, the customer is always right.
Step 7: Keep Your Responses Clear and To the Point
Product websites and social media platforms are not places you can get away with writing essays in responses, they’re made for quick conversations that customers or users can quickly skim and scan through, as opposed to an in-depth analysis.
Provide clear, direct responses that seek to resolve the problem as quickly as possible.
Remember to maintain a professional tone no matter how grave the situation gets. Don’t pick a fight with customers or respond in a moment of anger because this will escalate the situation to a PR nightmare in seconds.
Make sure your responses don’t seem too automated, as that might come off as you don’t care.
Step 8: Don’t Forget the Basic Greetings and Courtesies
Always greet and thank your customers properly. Keep your tone professional and warm, and smile while you are talking.
Phone calls are meant to be made standing up, so try standing up while speaking to customers. Some workers report feeling more energetic and vigorous while standing and talking on the phone.
Step 9: Offer a Little Extra
Get the contact details of the customer and contact them after you have resolved the problem to enquire if they have some other queries, or if their complaint was taken care of. This can be through an email, text message or even a phone call depending on the severity of the query or complaint.
Customers appreciate the extra effort you make for them, so rechecking on their issue and contacting them via another medium will be appreciated. Just take it a step further and ensure that they are 100% satisfied with your services.
If the mistake was made on the business’s side, steps should be taken to make up for it, by either providing the customer with refund or a free/discounted product or service as compensation for your error.
Step 10. Follow through
After a private discussion with a customer, they’ll generally feel better. Once this is done, it’s important to be true to your word and follow through with what you said. This might include replacing a faulty product, offering a discount, or adjusting a company policy.
Attracting new customers cost anywhere from 5 to 25 times as much as keeping an existing one, according to the Harvard Business Review. It makes sense to go the extra mile to keep an existing customer rather than spend 5 times as much to get a new one.
In budget terms, this means that if your budget allows R250 cost per acquisition for new customers, you can afford to spend between R1 250 and R6 250 to appease an upset customer if it means that they will stay on.
Keeping customers happy will keep your business and your bottom-line happy in the long run.