Social Media Storm: Responding to Negative Comments

social mediaIf you run a business you likely have a presence on several social media channels, if not, then you should! Don’t be taken aback when you receive negative comments via social media. If it has not happened to you yet, congratulations! But sooner or later it will. I mean let’s face it, we are all human and we cannot please everyone.

In an ideal world everyone would have a pleasant experience but everyone is different and my idea of a pleasant experience and your idea of one may be totally different, therefore we would give two very different reviews of the customer experience.

Negativity Happens

It will all go down a bit like this: you will be working in your office when you suddenly get a notification from Facebook, Twitter, Google+, etc. At first this is going to be exciting because someone commented on your business profile, right? Yes, that’s right, after all, social media is all about engagement so you are absolutely ready to engage with your customer. However, as you read the comment, you are totally crushed. This person had a negative experience and they are not happy with your brand at all. The more you read the worse you feel.

You should be very concerned for your brand about this negative experience, BUT you also CANNOT take this personally. The last thing you need is to take the comment personally, lash out at the customer, and then have to backtrack trying to repair yet ANOTHER negative experience. Or worse, start a viral case of bad PR for your business!

The important thing for your brand is to be prepared for these negative comments BEFORE they happen. So let’s take a look at some easy steps to responding to negative comments on social media.

3 Steps to be Prepared for the Social Media Negativity Storm:

1. Have a plan in place.

This is the absolute most important step of this process. If you have no plan in place the only plan you do have in place is a giant FAIL! Without a plan the chances of everything going completely wrong and out of control are much higher. To combat this, go ahead and take some time to sit down and work out your plan for negative comments on social media. You should consider having a direct customer service link for the customer such as a direct phone number they can call and speak to someone personally or an email address. Perhaps it will be a specific person dedicated to handling these complaints. Let it be known who that person is. This adds a personal touch and makes the customer feel like they have an advocate on their side. You should already know in your plan what you are willing to offer them in order to correct the situation. This could be a discount, refund, gift card, etc. Whatever it takes to make them happy and turn this negative into a positive.

2. Respond on the fly!

You need to respond to this comment ASAP! The best response time would be within minutes of the comment. If not within minutes you should at least be able to within hours. And, you better respond within 24 hours because by that point you are pushing it. I don’t think anyone is too busy to be able to address a customer service situation. If you are then you need to have someone dedicated to the customer experience. Remember, the longer the comment sits there with no response, the longer the problem sits there festering, continuing to boil to the point of another negative comment or lash out against your brand.

When you do take the time to respond to their comment, stay calm. Let them know you care about their situation and be courteous. You want to let this customer know that you are truly sorry about their negative experience and that you are committed to giving them a positive customer experience on behalf of yourself and your brand. Then you need to quickly get the correspondence offline, out of the public eye. This can be handled via private messages, email, phone calls, etc. utilizing that dedicated customer service person we were talking about.

3. Do not get combative and attack them.

If you need to actually release a statement on social media regarding a specific situation, stay calm, courteous, and positive. Always show your brand’s dedication to a positive customer experience. DO NOT attack the customer or undermine the legitimacy of their complaint. Remember what I said about different people having different opinions about the measurement of a positive customer experience. No matter how big or small, a customer and their concerns should always be important to your business. If you attack and/or downplay their complaint, this will very well likely lead to even more problems with the situations quickly escalating into a PR nightmare for your brand.

By following the above steps, you will be able to minimize the chances of the situation escalating while maximizing the chances of changing the mind of the upset customer. You will also demonstrate to other customers and potential customers that you can handle their frustrations in a professional, helpful matter. These same steps are also useful for customer reviews on Google, Yelp, Foursquare, etc.

You Cannot Ignore

Before we wrap this up, let’s take a look at a major question that you may be thinking: Why can’t I just ignore the negative comments? It can be tempting to just ignore negative comments, especially on social media, and hope they go away. And if you did, you would not be alone; people do it all the time.

Here’s the thing, by ignoring negative comments, your brand is missing out on a prime customer service experience opportunity. Over half of the customers whose complaints do get a response end up with positive feelings about the brand.

Keep in mind, you are not just responding for the upset customer’s sake; social media followers who see that you are ignoring customer complaints will conclude that you don’t really care about customer service and you could lose scores of customers without even knowing it.

The good news is that, by following these steps –having a plan, responding quickly, and avoiding attacking the complainer– you can minimize the damage of a negative comment on social media and prove that you provide the excellent customer service your brand claims to.

Image Credit: Shutterstock Bloomua

About Lynn Strickland

Lynn Strickland first took the dive into digital marketing in 2006. He has a diverse background including real estate, education and journalism. While he loves all areas of digital marketing, his true passion is social media. Follow him on Twitter: @lstrickland27.

Filed under: Featured, Internet Marketing