Which? uses cookies to improve our sites and by continuing you agree to our cookies policy

How to deal with negative feedback on social media

By Rebecca Milligan

Being part of an interconnected, fast-moving, digital world allows you to communicate directly with your customers and get instant feedback. But what happens when that feedback is something you don’t want to hear?
electronic thumbs down

 

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.

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 how willing your are 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.

Dispute Resolution Ombudsman's Judith Turner 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.

Step 3: put the situation right

People generally complain because they want you to put things right. Online or offline, a well-handled complaint can create loyal customers, who will tell others how well you dealt with their problem. But get it wrong online and the problem can escalate, turning an individual complaint into an online inquisition.

As Gareth Williams, of Gareth Williams Heating in Newport told us: ‘Twitter can be a funny animal. There’s a bit of a social etiquette on there, if somebody sees something that’s not quite right or somebody’s broken the (unwritten) code of conduct, everybody piles in and gives them a hard time. You have to be careful.’

Step 4: don't be afraid to apologise

If you get the complaint handling wrong, you need to apologise – fast. Acknowledge the error openly and honestly until the problem is resolved. The quicker you deal with the problem, the more likely it is that any negative reaction will be contained.

Step 5: don't be bullied

Although it is unusual, it is possible to be the victim of corporate cyber bullying. This is where businesses game the system of leaving customer reviews. An example would be a restaurant posting negative reviews on their competitors’ pages.  At Which? Trusted Traders we verify all reviews, but not all sites are so thorough. If someone has posted an offensive comment that breaks a site's rules, you have the right to report it and ask for its removal.

If someone has posted something offensive on your own page, you may choose to delete the post. You can specify in your social media policy that you reserve the right to delete posts on your own pages that include bad language or personal information, such as individual employees' names. With a clear policy you are able to provide a simple explanation for any decision to delete posts.

Remember, that whatever you do and however you decide to use social media – there’s permanence about it. What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas but what happens on Twitter is there for ever.

More on this...

Tags: Business advice Social media Reviews Feedback

Here are some other articles you might find helpful