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social media how toAre your customers leaving negative comments on social media?

Do you need a plan to handle customer complaints?

Responding quickly and appropriately to negative social comments can help you increase customer loyalty and retention.

In this article you’ll find out how to deal with negative comments on social media.

handle customer complaints on social media

Discover how to handle customer complaints on social media.

Listen to this article:

#1: Respond Quickly

It’s important to respond quickly and efficiently to customer complaints on social media.

As a starting point, try to reply within 1 hour. This doesn’t mean you need to have all the answers right away. Customers typically want you to acknowledge their issue so they know youre looking into it.

timer image shutterstock 254900650

Respond in less than an hour. Image: Shutterstock.

Next, let customers know when they can expect a response. This helps you manage expectations and reduce negative feedback. You’ve acknowledged the issue and set a realistic time frame for a response.

It’s important to consistently provide this same level of response on social media, even on weekends. According to a study from Convince & Convert, 40% of respondents expect a response time within hours of leaving a complaint.

#2: Acknowledge Mistakes

Consumers know that no business is perfect, so instead of hiding mistakes, it’s best to own up to them.

When you apologize to fans on social media, you acknowledge mistakes and take ownership. This also prevents the customer from continuing to blame your company for the mistake or issue. Then you can focus on the real task at hand, which is to help find a solution.

When you post an apology on social media, make sure its genuine. People will be quick to highlight apologies that appear to have been copied and pasted from a script or that lack emotion. Instead, show your human side and use your natural tone of voice.

apology to customer

Acknowledge your mistakes.

Above, you can see how Fashion brand Allen Solly found a creative way to apologize and respond to this customer’s comment.

When you’ve made a mistake, it’s best to show transparency, be honest and do everything in your power to fix the situation right away. For example, Pizza Hut took ownership of a mistake with an order by responding promptly and apologizing to the customer.

apology to customer

Apologize for errors and do what you can to rectify them.

Remember, it takes time to build trust with your customers, but it takes only seconds to lose it.

#3: Take Conversations Offline

All communications on social media are in the public eye, and often when dealing with negative comments, this can prompt others to join in.

The best course of action is to take the conversation offline so you can talk to the person one on one. This prevents the situation from escalating, and also helps calm the customer, because you’re working with him or her to resolve the problem.

#4: Personalize Your Responses

When customers reach out to you with a negative social comment, they’re typically looking for you to acknowledge and help resolve their problem. If you respond with an automated reply, you’re sending a message that you haven’t taken time to understand the issue and don’t value the customer’s input.

Here’s an automated response that has no relevance to the customer’s negative comment.

canned complaint response

Automated responses can be perceived as insincere.

When responding to negative comments, these tips will help you reassure customers:

  • Reply using a conversational tone.
  • Include the customers name in the response.
  • Let the customer know how you will fix the issue.
  • If it’s a mistake, take ownership.
  • Acknowledge the customers situation in your response.

Automated replies can save you time when answering common queries online, but only use them as templates for your responses. The key is to personalize your messages, rather than copy and paste the same message every time.

#5: Don’t Take It Personally

When dealing with negative comments on social media, remember that customers arent angry with you as an individual. They’re angry about the situation they’re in. That’s why you should never take these responses personally or respond to the customer in a negative manner as a result.

The last thing you want to do is make matters worse and respond aggressively.

#6: Put Together an Escalation Plan

An escalation policy is a document that will help your employees figure out who to contact in the company when handling complaints. The document should include a full list of employees and departments in your company along with their contact details.

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Create a document that empowers employees to move issues up the command chain. Image: Shutterstock.

With this document in place, any employee who handles a complaint can (if needed) quickly escalate the issue to the correct person. Employees may also need to get approval for more serious issues, and this list will allow them to reach out directly to the appropriate person.

An escalation policy not only speeds up your response time on social media, but also helps employees find solutions more quickly.

#7: Go the Extra Mile

One of the main reasons customers leave negative comments on social media is they haven’t been able to get the information they need from the company.

The good news is you don’t need to have all of the answers. In fact, when you don’t have the answer, referring your customers to an external resource or even another company’s product or service is actually a good thing.

Rather than reduce trust, this actually increases it. Your customers will appreciate that you’ve gone the extra mile to help solve their problem. For example, a Gaylord Opryland hotel customer tweeted about her interest in purchasing an item from her hotel room.

customer inquiry response

Go the extra mile to help your customers.

Although the item wasn’t available for sale, the hotel found a similar product available at an online retailer and provided a link to it for the customer’s convenience.

#8: Follow Up

Once you’ve responded to a complaint on social media, dont assume that youve resolved the issue. Follow up to make sure youve fully met the customers needs. A personal approach lets customers know you value their opinion and put their needs first.

It’s typically best to follow up with the customer within a couple of days. This helps you identify early issues and keeps the interaction top of mind. It’s also a good way to gather feedback about the customers overall experience with your company.

Here’s how Zappos followed up with a customer about a missing order of shoes.

customer complaint response

Follow up with customers to make sure their issues were resolved.

Rather than assume the issue was resolved after replacing the shoes, Zappos continued to communicate with the customer to make sure her issue was handled satisfactorily.

#9: Don’t Delete Negative Comments

Deleting negative social media comments won’t make them go away. In fact, if you delete and ignore them, customers will likely keep on commenting and venting their frustration until you’ve addressed them.

Although you should never delete a negative comment from a customer, it’s also not acceptable for customers to be rude or disrespectful to your company or toward other fans on your social channels.

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Don’t rush to delete or block customers who complain. Image: Shutterstock.

If you have a social media policy in place, you can link to this resource or issue a warning to them. If a customer has clearly crossed the line and you’ve issued a warning, it’s okay to hit delete or block that person.

#10: Monitor Conversations About Your Brand

To keep on top of negative comments and prevent issues from escalating, it’s important to monitor what people are saying about your company on social media.

A 2014 Mention study revealed that 31% of tweets containing company names don’t include their Twitter handles. Similarly, customers won’t always tag your company name in their Facebook updates. This practice makes it challenging to keep up with and track online conversations about your company.

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Put a system in place that helps you monitor and listen to your customers. Image: Shutterstock.

Here are two tools that can make it easier to monitor these conversations:

  • Mention is a free online tool that allows you to track all key mentions across social media and blogs. You can choose which keywords to track and you’ll receive a notification whenever these keywords are used. This is great way to find conversations where people haven’t included your account name in their updates.
  • Agora Pulse is another CRM (customer relationship management) tool that allows you to track when people have commented on your social channels, including Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. When you receive a notification about a comment, you can respond directly within the app and mark the comment as complete. This is an easy way to ensure you’ve replied to customer comments.

Final Thoughts

According to an NM Incite study, 71% of consumers who experience positive customer care on social media are likely to recommend the brand to others, compared to 19% of customers who don’t get a response.

Obviously, you can’t make all of your fans happy on your social channels, and that’s okay. What’s important is to be honest and open when dealing with negative comments. Adopting a personal approach means taking the time to understand customer issues when you’re trying to help. This signals to them that you value their opinions.

What do you think? Do you use any of these techniques when dealing with negative comments on social media? What tactics work successfully for your business? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

Organization photo, Traffic light photo, Caution photo and Listen photo from Shutterstock.
how to handle customer complaints on social media

Tips for handling customer complaints on social media.

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  • Great and necessary article! 🙂

    Customer Service – whatever the industry or channel has gone way down hill. It has, unfortunately for the world, but fortunately for the opportunist eye, become a USP and brand differentiating factor.

  • Saiga Tatsumi
  • Mohamad Sabry farag soliman

    thanks very much
    very useful article

  • Very good article and yes, I would suggest using many of these tips. I’ve been advocating on the importance of social media consumer care since 2008-2009. Unfortunately it has been a struggle and although improvements are being made, many big brands are still struggling to provide adequate social media customer service to their consumers. I’d add a caveat to your point #3 about taking the conversations offline. In a case where it is beneficial to the consumer to move to a more private setting then I would absolutely agree. However I encourage brands to not use offline as a default position. Many times solving an issue publicly not only demonstrates to the community your willingness to address the issue, but may also assist other consumers that may be experiencing the same problem. I would then suggest that the default position be that if you can handle it online, then do that and only allow for a consumer centric or specific business/unique service fulfillment outcome to prompt the conversation to move to a private one-one-one setting.

  • Excellent! Very concise and timely. Something every business should be reminded of regularly.

  • I’d add this one tip: Don’t respond faster on social media than you can on email or by phone. If you do, it looks like you just care about your image on social media, and don’t really care about customers.
    I had a terrible time with an energy company, and when emailing them their auto-reply warned of a 10 working day delay for them to respond to emails. That’s right – two weeks. When I mentioned this terrible level of service on Twitter they tweeted back within minutes!
    I wonder why…

  • Eileen Doyon

    great information! thank you!

  • Very useful. I always acknowledge our mistakes with regards with our products.

  • Cool stuff in the morning! Thanks!

  • Ravi Shukle

    Hi @Northwind:disqus, yes great point those who choose to keep their main focus on the customer to help grow their business will see much higher returns in terms of growth and customer loyalty. A famous quote by Jim Rohn states ” one customer well taken care of is worth $10,000 worth of advertising.

  • Ravi Shukle

    Hi @mohamadsabryfaragsoliman:disqus, you are very welcome 🙂 . Have you tried all of these tips yet in your business?

  • Ravi Shukle

    Hi @johnmacdaniel:disqus, thanks for sharing your thought buddy and yes I 100% agree. If we are being honest customer service online isn’t the sexiest of topics but it’s the most important. The good news is more and more businesses are starting to realise an investment in their customers is worth far more than any fancy advertising campaign or offer.

    With regards to responding publicly yes you are correct. Social media now means the majority of a brands communications if not all are in the public eye. Being able to handle these in the public eye as you mentioned shows others in the community that you are a brand who not only values its customers but are willing to help.

    It also gives the business the added element of allowing the community to respond and help which helps to create a stronger sense of community.

  • Ravi Shukle

    Thanks @adamcontos:disqus, feel free to bookmark 😉 . Have you tried any of these tips before in your online business? Stay tuned I have a lot more great customer service posts with examples coming soon to social media examiner 🙂

  • Ravi Shukle

    Hi @paulfairburn:disqus, first of all thank you for taking the time out to read my post I really do appreciate it. Secondly this example is very true! I always say “Focus on the quality of the interaction not the quantity”. I would rather a brand take longer to respond but ressolve the issue first time round. Covering up with a quick social media response will not help them in the long term in fact would only cause the customer to come back as their needs still have not been met.

    10 working days is simply not acceptable. Let’s hope they use the customer feedback from you to improve their response times and procedures.

    Did this issue get solved in the end?

  • Ravi Shukle

    One tip I’ve always encouraged all businesses to follow 🙂

  • I solved the issue by leaving them!

  • Ravi Shukle

    Hey @eileendoyon:disqus, you are very welcome. Have you tried all these tips in your business when dealing with angry customers?

  • Ravi Shukle

    Hey @dirkargyle:disqus, that’s great to hear. Acknowledging the mistake is the first part to creating more loyal customers. The second is owning up to the mistakes then taking ownership to correct the situation. Once your customers online see you have taken this ownership it takes the blame away allowing you to focus on what really counts — providing a solution.

  • Ravi Shukle

    Hey @disqus_CMHQ7dOPVk:disqus, thank you! which tip are you going to try first?

  • Ravi Shukle

    @paulfairburn:disqus, a great example of how treating customers can affect your business. Let’s hope you found a more realiable provider. Feel free to share any other stories you have with me at fb.com/ravishukle . Have a happy new year Paul 😀

  • Eileen Doyon

    have not needed to do that at this point, but great info to have if needed!

  • treb072410

    Awesome post Ravi!!! Thanks for sharing!

  • Hi Ravi! Well I think there is no real need to try them out. I think all of those should be considered. Happy New Year! Marcus

  • Great article!
    I also find that it’s a good idea to follow up with customers on social after they have been assisted with their complaint so that the interaction can be wrapped up publicly in a positive way. Anyone that views that interaction will then see that the customer was assisted and that they were happy with the results.

  • Ravi Shukle

    Thanks @treb072410:disqus, have you tried all these strategies for handling angry customers in your business?

  • Ravi Shukle

    Hey @simchalazarus:disqus, such a great suggestion yes following up with customers especially on social media is very underrated. This is a great way to not only segment the relationship further but it also helps to ensure there are no further issues that need assisting.

  • Ravi Shukle

    That’s good to hear @eileendoyon:disqus. Keep me posted on your progress 🙂

  • Ravi Shukle

    Hey @disqus_CMHQ7dOPVk:disqus Marcus, yes you are right. As long as you have these strategies in place when the right time comes you will be ready to face any customer issue. Keep me posted on how you get on 🙂

  • Eileen Doyon

    will do!

  • treb072410

    Sure did Ravi! It works..

  • Rose Bulandos

    Thanks for a very timely and helpful article Ravi. 🙂

  • Ravi Shukle

    Thanks @rosebulandos:disqus, have you implemented any of these tactics in your organisation?

  • Micah

    What about when the customer is wrong (which many customers are)? Some customers are ungrateful and self entitled and demand services that a company can not deliver. If they aren’t outright rude and flagrantly disrespectful, you can’t block them for their basic negativity. So what are some tips to handle misplaced negativity?

  • Ravi Shukle

    Hey Micah, great question! I always say that the customer isnt always right but you must always respect their opinion. In the case of handling misplaced negativity the best way to approach this is firstly let them know that you appreciate all feedback received from fans and you will take this on board and take action where necessary. The reason we often find this misplaced negativity is because the fan/customer feels their views haven’t been taken on board. By simply acknowledging this it helps breakdown that negative emotion allowing you to find out more on why they feel this way. Use negative feedback as a way to improve but in the case of the customer over asking you can simply let them know this is not something your company does at present but you would advise them to (either send a link to a resource to help, feedback form).

    Hope this helps Micah 🙂

  • Alice

    Great article and really useful. I want to train up one of my guys to make sure they’re responding to online complaints through social media in the best way possible and was wondering if you knew of any online training courses that cover customer support through social media rather than just marketing through social media? Thanks 🙂

  • Ravi Shukle

    Hi Alice, glad you enjoyed the article. I actually carry out this type of training myself called the Secrets of 5 star service. Email me at ravi@ravishukle.com and I can talk you through it.