Step-by-step guide to answering complaints on social media

7 April 2016

We’ve all had the inclination to rip into something or someone online when we’re unhappy – many people have even made a sport out of it.

The problem is most sports have spectators, and social media complaints are no different. When someone complains, they are not just talking to you – their friends, family, neighbours, colleagues and other businesses also get a front-row seat to the delicious fiasco that might be about to unfold.

So how you handle these complaints has a wide-reaching effect and if done properly, you might just turn an upset customer into an advocate of your brand.

Here’s Digital Brisbane’s step-by-step guide to handling social media complaints.

  • Do not delete negative comments

The urge to hit delete is high, but publicly it looks like an admission of guilt and you will only anger the customer even more. If someone complained to you in person and you just turned around and walked away, you’d expect a pretty severe reaction. So never delete a negative comment. You should also coach any staff members who help with social media to know this, and ensure they know who to advise up the management chain if a negative comment lands.

  • Answer as quickly as you can

Don’t let a negative comment stew. Research by social media experts Convince & Convert shows 42 per cent of customers expect a response within an hour, while 32 per cent want to hear back in 30 minutes or less. If you don’t have an answer for them straight away, let them know when you will be able to get back to them with a solution.

  • Admit the mistake

Don’t forget, you are speaking with another human being and they know everyone makes mistakes. If your product or service has let them down, acknowledge it. This is also an opportunity for you to turn that negativity into positivity through showing your brand is not immune to making errors. Make sure you use the customer’s name and a natural tone of voice, be honest and transparent, and apologise for their bad experience.

  • Take the conversation offline

If you can’t make amends with an apology, make sure you take a more personal approach and get the conversation offline. This achieves two things: the person complaining will appreciate a one-on-one explanation or solution, and it takes the issue away from any spectators. Offer to phone them (ask them to send their phone number by direct message) or get in contact using Facebook Messenger.

  • Take the opportunity to make them a fan

You know the person complaining is active on social media – they just complained about you. Why not offer them free products or vouchers in addition to anything you may have offered to rectify their issue? They may just start talking nicely about you, and you will have created an advocate out of anger.

  • Always follow up

Be sure to check in with them a few days later to ensure everything is going well. If you have responded properly and offered a solution to their complaint, a follow-up message will solidify the process and might push them further down the road to advocacy. And that is what social media for business is all about.

Kurt Sanders

Director of Strategy at The Content Division

Kurt is a digital content strategist with a focus on developing strategies and content that help businesses’ audiences engage, solve, trust and act. Kurt has helped create and execute strategies across B2B and B2C businesses, growing audiences, generating leads and creating brand advocates. Kurt is the director of strategy for The Content Division and co-hosts the Telltale podcast.

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