How To Handle a Customer Complaint on Social Media

How To Handle A Customer Complaint on Social Media

by Mark Landiak & Michael Janowski

“Your service ******* sucks!” – Brad, 23, Chicago

“We waited 45 minutes, and they still messed up our order. Don’t even bother with this place.” – Jessica, 25, New York City

So you got a bad social media consumer review. Don’t panic. It’s not the end of the world (or your business). Not even close. In fact, this may present a golden opportunity.

In just 4 seconds (and about as many words), a person who feels slighted can broadcast their version of a customer experience to thousands of potential buyers. To some extent, they have the potential to alter perceptions about a company and influence others’ buying decisions either positively or negatively.

One of the biggest challenges in persuading business clients to use social media is getting them to open up and be willing to have online conversations with both existing and prospective customers. Many of them (still very entrenched in a culture of traditional pre-social business-consumer relations) don’t want to open themselves up to criticism online for fear that it might actually create more negative impressions and negatively impact their image in the marketplace. But what do you really have to hide? Social business and consumer reviews aren’t about protecting your reputation from digital malice (at least not entirely) because your consumers aren’t out to ruin you. After all: what would they do without you? You still fulfill a need for them.

Social business and consumer reviews are about conducting business transparently. They’re about holding your business accountable to each and every customer. They’re about positioning yourself to improve and grow by gathering feedback, carrying on a healthy conversation with your community, and differentiating your brand from your competition. Consumer complaints shouldn’t be viewed as attacks. They should be viewed as opportunities for learning, making meaningful changes, and perhaps saving or creating more customers.

Here is a snapshot of considerations on how to respond to consumer complaints on social media from Customer Service Isn’t a Department…It’s You!

  1. Read the review carefully. Take your time and fight the urge to scan. Read it thoroughly. Is there any validity to the complaint? Addressing reviews productively requires that you be meticulous and totally informed of the issue at hand.

  2. Keep calm & dig deeper. Don’t get defensive or simply discount the author as a random malcontent. Find out when, where, and with whom this issue occurred. It’s important that you determine the context and circumstances that prompted the complaint and how serious it might be. Again, is it valid or something that is recurring?

  3. Consider the source. While many review sites provide consumer anonymity, you should consider the reviewer in formulating a response. After all, maybe it is a random malcontent. What is the tone of the review? Where is the reviewer located? How often do they post and how many followers do they have? One way to gather more information here is to ask open-ended questions. Ask them to tell you more about the incident. Doing so will open a dialogue, show care in responsiveness, and help to flush out fake reviewers.

  4. Acknowledge it. Let the person know that you have read their comments, that your goal is to “create positive customer experiences and satisfied customers” and are “sorry for their experience.” If the complaint is genuinely constructive, you might even thank them for their feedback.

  5. Own it. Being responsive to a bad review means accepting responsibility to help resolve the problem wherever possible. After acknowledging the complaint, let them know they’ve been heard and maybe go as far as to say: “I will personally discuss your comments in our weekly customer satisfaction meeting” or what specific action you might take on their behalf. Try not to deflect any fault on the consumer and don’t get defensive.

  6. Provide a course of action. In formulating your response, it’s important to always consider your audience. Social reviewing is about transparency. Speak inclusively and sensitively. Be professional. Show passion for your business and dedication to taking exceptional care of the customer. If possible, state what steps are being taken to resolve the issue. People want to know that they are being heard and will be impressed that you are actually responding.

  7. Encourage future positive posting! One of the best ways to protect your business from one negative review is to buffer it with a high volume of positive ones. Encourage your patrons toshare positive consumer reviews with any opportunity to do so. If you have resolved a negative situation in a positive manner, encourage that customer to write another review about your responsiveness.

Engaging in the social consumer conversation isn’t entirely about being reactive. It’s also about being proactive and managing the dialogue. Don’t just position yourself to embrace consumer feedback when it comes to you. Be proactive and seek it out. Moreover, encourage positive feedback and customer success stories. Have your customers recognize specific employees or locations. Sign up for consumer review sites and drive the online conversation about your business so it doesn’t put you on your heels.