In today’s digital landscape, almost every business needs a social media presence, but it can come at a price. Having various social media accounts also provides an outlet for consumers to criticize your business, products, or services. While this might sound scary, don’t worry – most online criticism can be dealt with effectively, as long as you’re prepared beforehand.
Get Ready for Action
First, you need to be able to spot issues whenever they arise. Luckily, there are numerous tracking tools to help you detect negative content. Most social platforms have their own notification services to keep you up to date. Use these, together with Google Alerts and a monitoring tool such as SproutSocial, and you’ll be able to track all online content related to your business. These tools will alert you whenever someone uses your chosen search terms, such as your company name or a product name.
Turn Negatives Into Positives
A U.S. study by RightNow showed that when a company dealt with a complaint, the reviewer was likely to remove or revise their comments – 22 percent of people even followed up with positive comments.
Most companies receive negative comments at some point, and it can happen for a number of reasons. Sometimes, a customer just wants to let off steam in public; they might want to let everyone know that they prefer a competitor’s product, or they might have suggestions to improve your customer service. Whatever form it takes, if you use the following strategies, you can minimize the damage to your reputation and even turn a negative into a positive.
1. Take a Step Back
First, you need to exercise some caution before taking action. Remember, you’re not the only one reading these comments, and your response will also be seen by others. Put your emotions aside, and prepare yourself to respond properly. The customer is not angry with you personally; they’re angry about the situation. Responding aggressively will only make matters worse.
2. Listen Carefully
It’s easy to zero in on any negative words, but try to concentrate on the actual problem being discussed. Make sure you understand the crux of the problem, so you can address the real issue at hand.
3. Say Thank You and Acknowledge the Feedback
Communicating that you genuinely care and you’re grateful for their feedback will go a long way to repairing any damage. Responding quickly will reassure people that you’re looking into it, and they won’t feel ignored. You don’t have to have all the answers immediately, or even acknowledge it was your mistake; simply let them know when they can expect a further response.
4. Apologize with Sincerity
Apologizing on social media is not a sign of weakness – it shows everyone the human side of your company. It also keeps further negative comments to a minimum. Using excuses gives the appearance that you’re trying to shift the blame, and negates your sincerity.
Don’t fake it though – people will know when you’re using a stock response from a company script. If possible, include the customer’s name in the response to show that you recognize customers are unique individuals.
5. Take It Out of the Spotlight
Negative comments on social media can prompt others to join in. It’s best to take the conversation offline so you can solve the problem away from the public gaze. Offer to continue the conversation via email or phone so you can resolve the problem more efficiently.
6. Don’t Delete Negative Comments
Deleting negative social media comments could drive customers to comment even more. It’s better to address the comment head-on, so there’s a record of your engagement for all to see. If what they say is inaccurate, make your point of view clear – with supporting evidence – so other viewers can see the whole picture.
7. Follow Up
You should be able to suggest a number of ways to support the customer. When possible, come up with one ideal solution that will resolve the issue. It could be in the form of a refund or a coupon for the next purchase. Ask the customer what will make them happy and if it’s reasonable, do it. Then follow up within one or two days to make sure you’ve met the customer’s needs.
The Bottom Line
Most of the time, social media is a useful platform for positive customer engagement, but you should be prepared to deal with negativity, and to learn from it, whenever it arises. If you get negative comments, remember that it’s not all bad news, and you’re not alone in getting negative feedback. Communicate promptly and honestly, and follow through on your promises, and you will be rewarded with loyalty and continued business.
The good news is that negative feedback gives you the opportunity to show your business in a more positive light. It can help you improve your company for future customers, and studies show that those who experience good customer care are also more likely to recommend your business to others.
Originally published 10/06/16.