As a business owner, social media can be an invaluable tool in expanding your reach, increasing brand awareness, and driving traffic to your website. Additionally, through social media, you’re better able to connect with and engage customers.
It’s thrilling when satisfied customers leave positive feedback about your company in their social media posts, isn’t it? That means a lot of other eyeballs are seeing that glowing review as well. Unfortunately, it also means that everyone can see the negative messages, too. And like it or not, people will judge your brand based on the opinions they read online.
Let’s face it. Bad customer experiences are going to happen, and they’re going to voice their frustration via public Internet channels. But, as Social Media Examiner suggests, it’s how you handle negative social media feedback that will set you apart from other businesses:
“A great response strategy can convert angry and upset customers into loyal, raving fans. The rule of thumb is that while unhappy customers talk to 5 people, formerly unhappy customers you win back talk to 10.”
Ready to start turning negative feedback into new fans, and earn respect in the process? Here are 6 tips to make it happen:
Decide If the Negative Comment Actually Justifies a Response
Some would argue that you should respond to every bad review that pops up on social media. Social Media Examiner has this to say about it, “Not all negative comments are worth a response, and not all critics are worth trying to win over.” Sometimes, you just need to move on, especially when you run across instances like these:
- The negative comment was left on a small, virtually unknown blog or forum. In this instance, responding to the criticism would only lend unnecessary attention and credibility to something no one saw to begin with
- The criticism is an obvious attempt to be rude and obnoxious, suggesting that the critic may have a personal problem
- The critic is known for picking fights
As a general rule, it’s not a good practice to remove negative posts, no matter how tempting it might be. However, if it’s blatantly obvious that you’re dealing with a “troll” (someone who purposely creates conflict on social media sites by posting messages that are particularly controversial or inflammatory to elicit emotional responses from other users) you’re probably pretty safe to block or delete these abusive and irrational comments.
Give careful consideration to which negative comments are worth responding too, because some of them are no-win scenarios that will only waste your time and energy. Instead, turn your attention to legitimate and reasonable complaints you can resolve.
Be A Detective: Sniff Out Social Media Bombs Before They Detonate
Just because you’re not aware of it doesn’t mean there isn’t negative buzz about your company filtering through the social media channels. Fortunately, there are ways to help you spot bad buzz and pin point issues before they become unmanageable.
Social Media Examiner recommends the following:
- Set up Google Alerts (a free tool that helps track key conversations)
- Closely monitor your Facebook page
- Pay attention to what’s being said on Twitter
- Read reviews on site directories such as Yelp
- Keep a list of communities your customers engage in and check them regularly
Timing is Everything: Respond Quickly
Customer expectations for phone support and email support differ from those of social media, according to Convince & Convert:
“Among respondents to The Social Habit who have ever attempted to contact a brand, product, or company through social media for customer support, 32% expect a response within 30 minutes…42% expect a response within 60 minutes.”
Faced with negative word of mouth, you don’t have the luxury of time. The longer you postpone your response, the more frustrated the customer will get, increasing the likelihood that others will take notice of the issue and pass it along.
At the very least, you should respond with a quick acknowledgement like this one from Social Media Examiner:
“Hi, my name is ____ and I hear you. We’re looking into it now, and I’ll get back to you as soon as possible. If you have any questions, contact me directly at _____.”
A message like this will let the disgruntled person know that they’re on your “needs attention” radar. Plus, they now have the name and contact information of a real person to whom they can vent in a more private and meaningful way.
There are actually different schools of thought here. Some advocate moving conversations with angry customers offline. But Social Media Examiner encourages “keeping the conversation open” with this statement:
“…when you do it online, in public, you earn word of mouth. For the same effort and cost, thousands more people see that you actually care about customers. Plus, you save on all the people who now don’t need to call in (or write a similarly angry post) to find an answer to the same question.”
Don’t Talk Like a Robot
You’re not a robot and customers who are already bent out of shape won’t appreciate canned, corporate-sounding responses. Instead, establish a human connection with your customers by providing your name, speaking in a friendly tone, and showing empathy.
You might start out with an authentic greeting like this one: “Hi, this is Tyler and I’m so sorry for the trouble…”
The friendly, personable tone of this message helps to diffuse anger and pave the way for productive communication and a satisfactory resolution.
Apologize & Offer to Make Things Right
Acknowledge the critic’s complaint and show sympathy for their concerns, whether they’re unfounded or not. A strong apology will turn the tide of negative word of mouth, but you can take it one step further by offering to fix the problem.
Check out how the company below responded to a negative social media comment:
This burrito chain always makes it a practice to include the phrase “we will make it up to you” every time they respond to an upset customer.
As Social Media Examiner reminds us, “We all make mistakes. It’s how we fix them that people remember.”
A sincere apology, along with a willingness to make things right, will transform your critics into fans.
Invite Your Critic To Be Involved in the Resolution
“Negative word of mouth is an opportunity,” says Social Media Examiner. Start viewing your critics as “frustrated fans” who might have something worthwhile to say.
Providing your critics with a way to get involved gives them a voice and makes them feel like you really value their feedback. Invite your disgruntled customer to participate in customer advisory boards, product testing, and brainstorming sessions, encourages Social Media Examiner.
Handled correctly, negative word of mouth can actually be turned into a valuable learning experience that will help your business improve the customer experience.
When you find negative comments on your social media pages, how you choose to proceed next will determine whether or not you turn your critic into a fan, retain current customers, and positively influence other users visiting your page.
When you handle social media complaints effectively, proposes Seek Social Media, frustrated customers will demonstrate their appreciation by spreading the word about your great customer service. In other words, converted fans will become your advocates and influence others to buy from you.
Keep in mind that no matter how awesome your company is, mistakes happen and customers get upset about it. Social media gives consumers a place to vent these complaints and resolve their concerns. Think of it as a tremendous opportunity to improve your brand’s reputation and generate customer loyalty.