Are You Handling Social Media Complaints the Right Way?

Published on August 12, 2016

“I want my money back!"

"Take your business somewhere else!" 

Nobody likes to hear things like this, but in the age of social media, it’s an everyday reality, often, for even the leaders in a given field. 

Today, every customer has the ability to share their thoughts, concerns, and complaints instantly across a number of social channels, from Yelp to Facebook to YouTube. But rather than seeing this as a barrage of negativity, we would argue that it’s a remarkable opportunity to highlight your brand’s trustworthiness, reliability, and superior customer service.

Building relationships with your client base is a core aspect of online reputation management, and addressing users’ complaints, concerns, and questions on social media is one of the most important ways to do this.

But how successful is your brand at handling social complaints? To find out, ask yourself these five important questions:

1.) Am I Locating All of My Mentions?

In 2016, there is no shortage of ways that your customers are interacting with your brand online: While you may have a plan in place for dealing with public Yelp or Google reviews posted right to your business’ page, frustrated (or happy) consumers may also be mentioning your name on Twitter, posting on your Facebook, or sharing pictures of your product on Instagram.

To make matters more complicated, only about 3% of consumers @-tag a company on Twitter when they post customer service complaints, according to an NYU/Conversocial study.

The bottom line? It’s important to regularly check in with all of your social channels, and perform regular, deep searches for your brand, using a technique that we call “social listening.” For particularly large or fast-growing brands, it may be worthwhile to look into professional social listening software options.

2.) Am I Responding With Empathy, or Anger?

It’s natural to feel angry or upset when someone rails against your business online. This is your life’s work, after all. The important thing is to not let your anger or frustration color your interaction online, lest you make matters a lot worse (potentially ruining your reputation in the process).

Don’t bait the customer or start a “flame war;” instead, make a genuine effort to put yourself in your customers’ shoes and make sure that they feel heard, respected, and valued. You don’t need to bend over backwards for approval, but you should respond with an open, empathetic ear and a clear “I’m sorry.” A little bit can go a long, long way.

3.) Am I Responding Publicly?

Social media is all about community experiences. More often than not, consumers are sounding off on your brand online in order to get a show of support from their followers and friends. They want to feel heard, publicly – so make sure you respond publicly!

Since Twitter or Facebook is how your customer reached out, it’s safe to assume that this is the way they want you to reply. And, in so doing, you’re highlighting that your brand is open, transparent, and eager to respond, building trust in the minds of all of the spectators following this complaint.

At the same time, social media gives you the chance to be creative and respond with confidence-building personalization. Remember, respond genuinely and authentically to every complaint – a copy-and-paste, mad-libs style scripted answer makes you look like a robot, not a trustworthy, relatable organization worthy of business.

4.) How Many Times Am I Replying?

Over at the Buffer blog, digital marketing expert Jay Baer recommends only replying publicly a maximum of two times “to any one person in any single conversation.”

Often, Baer notes, many truly anger customers will see your initial response as an opportunity to land another punch, goad you even further. Don’t let someone else’s irrational behavior get your goat. Instead, make two authentic, legitimate attempts to solve your customer’s problem. If they refuse to engage, “move on,” Baer recommends. “Nothing will be gained by replying again and again. You’ve done your part. You’re on record.”

5.) How Are We Continuing the Conversation?

While it’s important to make your first response public, there are all sorts of reasons you’ll want to continue your interaction on a different channel. More likely than not, you won’t be able to deal with a complex customer service question in one to two tweets. Perhaps you’ll need account information or details in order to help resolve the customer’s problems. 

In this case, Baer recommends taking the next stage of your interaction private. Rather than encouraging consumers to switch media entirely, however, by having them respond by email or phone, use the back channels built into the social platform – Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Yelp all have built-in messaging designed for non-public interaction.

Use your second reply to start a DM (that's Direct Message) conversation with the customer; from there, it will be easier to switch to Skype, phone, or chat programs to more fully address the customer’s complaints. [Important note: You must follow a Twitter user in order for them to be able to DM you. Make sure you follow before asking them to send you a DM.]

Have any more questions about getting started with online reputation management or social PR? Ready to put a realistic, actionable strategy into place for your business? That’s where Geek comes in! Our experienced team knows the unique ins and outs of every aspect of social marketing. Drop us a line today to get the conversation started!

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