How to handle complaints on social media

Posted in Marketing and social media.

People look to social media for communication, validation, and news among other things. They even look to social media when deciding whether to support a business or not. If social media content speaks negatively about a brand, others will hear about it and form opinions about that brand whether they personally interacted with the brand or not. It is therefore important for businesses to know how to handle negative comments and posts on social media.

React swiftly

If a customer is displaying their grievances on social media, there is a high chance that they feel that their problems have gone unheard. The longer you take to address a problem, the longer the customer feels as if they have been ignored. On public platforms like social media, other customers and potentials can see the issue and possibly form their own negative opinions about your business.

In order to be able to quickly address any sort of backlash, you need to be actively present on social media platforms. See what people are saying. It is important to be able to find and respond to grievances as early as possible.

Acknowledge the problem

On social media, there might be trolls who spread false information or badger your business for a response. These are people that tend to not have a legitimate problem with your business outside of disliking it. Feel free to block them.

However, most people complaining on social media have a genuine issue. Perhaps they have received poor service, or maybe your company has spoken about sensitive topics insensitively. Acknowledge the issue publicly. This allows others to witness that you are not ignoring a complaint. A business that takes action when a customer is unhappy is one which will have a better public opinion.

Ignoring the complaint or sweeping it under the rug raises flags for many customers. It signals to them that your business is not willing to help its customers. Some might see a business that is overly secretive as one that is in the wrong. Any sort of dishonest tactics such as creating a fake account to promote your business, deleting posts, or privately asking people to rescind their negative posts all promote the idea of a “scammy” business brand.

After publicly acknowledging a complaint, if it is a single customer complaint, address it privately and honestly. If the complaint pertains to a more general outcry, let everybody know that their complaints have been heard. Take responsibility for mistakes made and keep justifications (otherwise just known as “excuses”) out of it.

Respond humanely

The people behind the social media accounts that raise their issue on the public stage are human beings. Understand that most online complaints are prompted by emotions. You do not want to be too blunt in your response and possibly invalidate their emotions. Customers want to feel like the brands that they support care for them.

An apology should be heartfelt. A robotic response feels nothing but insincere. People don’t tend to respond well to formulaic replies. Tailor the response directly to the problem that is being addressed.

Be humble in your reply. Admit any mistakes even if there was nothing that you could have done to prevent them. People behind complaints feel that they were wronged and not admitting mistakes makes it seem as if they were wrong to complain. The aim of your response is to minimise long-term damage to your brand so if you have to take the blame to appease customers and retain your public image then so be it.

Address how the issue can be solved. If a statement needs to be retracted, make it known that the statement was retracted. Explain how your business can do better in the future. People don’t just want businesses to take responsibility, but they also want them to learn from their mistakes.

Fix the problem

A response on social media will seem hollow if there is no actual action. You need to actually make an effort to solve the issue causing the complaint. If the issue cannot be solved, express empathy.

Sometimes fixing the problem involves a reversal of a previous decision. This can mean taking a product off the market, ending a specific marketing campaign, or retracting a previous statement. Other times, it may involve compensation or consolidation. An unhappy customer may feel better if their faulty product is replaced with a brand new one. Make amends. Even if you feel justified in your decision, you need to consider the opinions of those whose purchases you depend on.

Even if the complaint was addressed privately, make a public announcement showing that the problem has been fixed. “I hope we have addressed your issues adequately” can signal to others that your business has taken action. This can be viewed more favourably if no more complaints from that social media account occur.

In summary

Regardless of how big or successful your business is, complaints are inevitable. It is important for you to know how to address those complaints, especially if they are broadcasted on social media for all to see. Inadequately dealing with complaints can negatively affect your brand image. On the flip side, successfully addressing complaints in a positive way can earn your brand some respect.