Negative feedback is always disheartening to receive. It can feel hurtful, particularly when it relates to your business that you have poured so much time and energy into.
But by reacting with a level head and an even temper, you can minimise the risk to your business' reputation, and help turn around a potentially toxic situation with an unhappy customer.
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Step 1: consider the complaint objectively
Always look into the issue that’s been raised. Complaints made on a social media may be entirely reasonable objections, even if they’re expressed on a public forum or in an unpleasant way.
Negative feedback can be an opportunity to learn which areas of your business aren’t working as well as they could. Lots of complaints about the same issue would be a clear sign of a specific problem.
Step 2: reply professionally and promptly
Use your common sense; don't match an unhappy customer's tone in your response even if they are hurtful or rude. Though you may feel offended, angry or misrepresented, it's vital to keep your replies professional and neutral.
- Remember that information on social media is public - whatever the nature of the complaint, the reply must show you are willing to resolve it.
- Ensure spelling, punctuation and grammar is 100% spot-on - don't give them another reason to complain.
- If they've taken the time to explain the issue in detail, make sure you don't go back and ask them for something they've already told you.
- That being said, it's unlikely you'll have all the information you'll need to help them after one message, so be patient and word your initial response in a way that won't cause them greater stress (especially if they're complaining about other failed methods of contact, which is a common occurrence for any business).
- Only try to move the conversation to another method of communication if absolutely necessary. If social media is the method of contact the person has chosen, then that is where they want their response.
- Treat the complaint as seriously as you would as if it came from any other method of contact, perhaps even more so given the public nature of the conversation.
- Reply as fast as possible - the person can see if you're responding to others and posting other updates instead of dealing with their query, so don’t give them another reason to complain.
Judith Turner from the Dispute Resolution Ombudsman advises implementing a social media policy. In addition to general guidelines around how formal or informal you want to be, thinking about how you will deal with any negativity ahead of time gives you and your staff a procedure to follow when problems arise.