Handling Customer Complaints on Social Media with Grace

customer complaints on social media

If a customer approached you in person and said, “I was disappointed in my [experience/ purchase]” would you look at them and then turn your back and walk away?

Of course not! But it is not uncommon for businesses to ignore customer complaints on social media. Brands that ignore the significance of online social interaction miss an opportunity. Even consumer complaints offer the chance to build up your brand loyalty, and you don’t have to be intimidated by them.

Start From a Place of Trust

Where there are comments, there will be trolls. A “troll”, in internet-speak, is a person who says negative things in a forum or public space to rile people up. That doesn’t mean negative comments can be discounted, however. Many people with legitimate customer complaints look first to Twitter, Facebook and other social media sites for help, expecting a response. Assume all comments, even negative ones, are legit, and respond accordingly.

Respond to Online Customer Complaints As You Would in Real Life

In the written medium, it is easy to misinterpret tone. Short responses can seem gruff or dismissive. Make sure you act as you would in real life, taking extra care to be friendly, stay positive, and most importantly, show that you are listening.  Brands have a lot of work to do in this area. According to the 2016 Q1 Sprout Social Index, brand social media response rates were only 11%. Worry over how to address customer complaints may be part of the reason businesses are holding back. But there’s also this: In a similar study by the Rose McGrory Social Media Management Agency in April 2012, when customers received a response (29% of the time back then) 83% were satisfied just to be heard.

That’s right, you don’t even have to fix the problem in many cases in order to make the customer happy! Just having their issues acknowledged is often enough

Take It Private If You Need To

If you feel the conversation may be lengthy, or that the problem is one you’d rather not have plastered all over the internet, it’s ok to ask for contact information so that you may address the issue in private. In fact, Twitter’s 140 character limit is the perfect excuse in this situation! “Hi, we’re sorry you had that problem. Could you DM us your email, 140 characters may not be enough to fix this for you quickly!”

A Public Conversation Isn’t Necessarily Bad

While it can be frustrating and even embarrassing for customer complaints to become public fodder, don’t despair. Make the public nature of these conversations work for you and your brand. Even if you don’t manage to fix the problem, your online community will recognize your effort and gain insight into your brand’s commitment to customer service .

It’s Worth It To Give It A Try

A while back, I was managing social media for a local restaurant, and a customer left a less than glowing post on the restaurant Facebook page. “Too bad “***” overcooks its food”

My heart simultaneously sank and lept into my throat. I was immediately defensive, as this was a restaurant I had worked in for years. I knew their commitment to preparing foods exactly to customers’ preferences. And yet, I was also excited. Here was my chance to prove that you could change a customer’s mind and leave a positive footprint for the others who were watching and waiting for your response.

Me: “We’re sorry you’ve had that experience. Please let us know when something isn’t cooked to your liking, we want you to enjoy your meal!”

Customer: “Thank you. I sometimes forget to warn the server about my preferences” The customer felt he had been heard, which is the most important thing. And because the negative comment turned into a positive public dialogue, the restaurant’s reputation could rebound. It was not necessarily the kitchen’s or server’s mistake, he had not asked for a specific temperature for his dish.

Me: “Just let us know, we aim to please!”  Even though there was no additional comment necessary, in the online world customers can often wonder if they’re being heard. By adding one more friendly comment, I made sure that he, and just as importantly, any other readers, knew that their needs were the number one concern.

Customer complaints on social media don’t have to be scary. By treating them as you would an in-person complaint, you have a good chance not only to right any wrongs, but also convert new customers as well.

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