In this time of inter connectivity through multitudes of social media avenues, we as businesses are more connected to our customers than ever before. Social Media furnishes us with an avenue to not only connect, but engage our customers and establish trust. There was a time when a disgruntled customer would talk about their bad experience with friends but you, as the business owner, might never hear about it. This was word of mouth advertising and it definitely goes both ways. This still happens, only now, people also jump right onto social media and state their grievances for the whole world to see reaching thousands more people than the ten closest to them.
But this is not all bad. Social media allows us a platform to be more engaged with our customers, we have a direct line to each customer, the happy ones and the upset ones. This avenue actually encourages a dialogue between the customer and the business. This gives us an opportunity to show ALL the followers your colors. How you handle this situation can ultimately turn a negative situation into positive word of mouth about your integrity and company values.
No matter how awesome you are, how amazing your product is or how sweet your staff is, it is practically inevitable that you will eventually come across a disgruntled customer who turns to social media to vent.
Negative social media can also create opportunity.
Consumer’s reaction to a company’s negative social media can be a very different depending on the type of business in question. For example, people tend to be used to, and ultimately more forgiving, when they read a bad review about a restaurant experience, especially if there are also a lot of good reviews. They are psychologically willing to consider any number of causes: a patron may have had a bad experience because they are too picky, expected a certain type of service that didn’t go with the type of restaurant they were in or just went on an off day. For the most part they are almost always willing to give a restaurant a second chance. (Unless of course these bad reviews stack up and the establishment is doing nothing to remedy the situation.)
On the other hand, consumer’s reaction to bad reviews about other types of businesses, such as retail and service oriented businesses, is with a bit more caution when considering whether to take a chance and do business with the company. People do not want to risk their hard earned money and possibly have a bad experience.
But, if they see that you are making the effort, doing what you can to understand the customer who had a bad experience and doing what you can to remedy that situation, it can have an affect on their overall impression of your business. It gives a person the impression that you are a compassionate business owner who really cares about your customers or clients and what they think about your business.
- Ignorance is NOT bliss! This is why the very first tip is do not ignore the issue and hope it will go away! And definitely do not delete the negative comment. While there are circumstances where someone may get out of hand and measures must be taken (think trolls), those incidences should be few and far between, and deleting comments will only look bad for your business and make good customers question your integrity.
- First, consider what the complaint is really about. Are they dissatisfied with your services or a product they bought? Did they misunderstand what they thought they were getting? Or did you misrepresent what you had to offer? This might mean rethinking your advertising, brochures etc and the benefits listed in them to see if they could be construed differently than you intended. Maybe the problem is not with the product but with a part of the sale that is out of your hands, such as delivery. It is imperative to understand the core issue so that you can determine the best way to handle the situation.
- Put yourself in their shoes. Try to see the situation from their point of view. Make every effort to understand what happened to them, the inconvenience it caused them, and how it can be remedied. When a customer complains it is because they feel slighted and they are speaking up because they want to be heard and are looking for confirmation that they have the right to be mad. REALLY listen to the complaint. Keep in mind that most of the time they don’t want to hear excuses as to why something went wrong. Unless this “excuse” will definitely lead to the customer seeing your side (rare) it is better to apologize and ensure them you will help them rectify the situation.
- Take a deep breath. Make sure you’re in the right frame of mind to respond to the comment. It isn’t doing anybody any good if you are feeling attacked and respond with a heated comment. Make sure you take the time needed to calm down and reflect on the situation and come up with the most constructive way to handle it. Keep in mind that when it comes to the internet, there are no take backs! Comments will live on long after you’re gone (even if you think you deleted them).
- Time is sensitive. Take a moment to get right but don’t wait too long! The next tip is to respond in a timely manner. This is a perfect opportunity to show people just how responsive to your customers you, and your business, are determined to be. But also, the longer you wait the more chance you’re giving this problem to pick up momentum. As other customers see the post they may choose to chime in on a similar experience and the longer this goes on without any notice from the business the more it can become a freight train you can’t stop. You want to nip it in the bud before it has a chance to get out of hand.
- When you’re ready, respond with a stance you can stand behind. The strategy here is to make sure you are making a point that you believe in. Whether you need to admit fault and take steps to remedy it or stand up and stand behind your company’s actions, the main goal is to remedy the situation. We don’t want to point out “this is how we do business, so deal with it!” We want to point out: this is how we do business, or this was out of our hands, but what can I do or offer to help remedy the situation anyway? When apologizing make every effort to be (sound) sincere. Putting up a standard ‘sorry’ message with your customer service number will end up just looking like, well exactly what it is, a standard response. And that will never sound sincere. Saying sorry is sometimes difficult, but it will go a long way to smoothing ruffled feathers so a more constructive conversation can begin. This might mean offering free shipping on the next purchase, even though it was FedEx that delayed their current shipment, for example.
- Gently move the conversation to a more private avenue. Social media platforms are not a place for a tit for tat. Which is what it can quickly turn into if the customer feels empowered by others. It may also be harder for them to “ease up” and accept a solution while in the public eye. When it comes to actually working out what can be done to resolve the issue, it is better done one on one. You will want to invite them to contact you (your customer service) directly, and give them methods to easily do so, so that you can help them further with the issue. This takes the issue out of the spotlight and creates a more friendly atmosphere to work in. However, be mindful not to make it look like you’re just trying to silence them, but truly interested in helping.
- Follow up is key! It’s that extra step that people don’t really expect. It shows you care and that you are thankful you were able to satisfy the customer. A quick follow up post with something like “Thanks you for bringing this to our attention. I am happy we were able to resolve this for you.” will suffice.
- Don’t take it personally, but do. Negative feedback can also be considered constructive criticism. This can give you the opportunity to take a good hard look at yourself and use the situation to grow. We are all not perfect, sometimes we do things that are not really “us”. Use this time to reflect on how you handled a situation and consider how it could have been handled better. If it wasn’t necessarily something a staff member did wrong, take a look at your business procedures and processes and see if they need updating.
- Turn it into opportunity! This customer wants to like you! They had some amount of brand loyalty to buy from you in the first place, ad now they’re just bummed because something went wrong. By making it right you are giving them permission to like you again. This is an opportunity to let your customer know that you really do value them. Let them know you are listening and you HEAR them. And because of that, you will make every effort to immediately make it right. These formerly hurt customers can end up becoming your biggest advocates! Customers love to tell how they were wronged but how far you went to take care of them. They may end up being even more loyal after then if nothing ever went wrong in the first place! And guess how far that word of mouth advertising will go in your favor!
Bonus: When potential customers see that you provide exceptional customer service it will help to ease any trepidation they may have had about using your services or purchasing from you, potentially helping you to gain even more loyal customers.
Remember, failure is an opportunity to learn from what went wrong so you can do it right the next time. And, a negative social media comment can also help you learn what your customers are wanting and/or expecting. Maybe you hadn’t even considered that! This would give you important information that you can apply to your business model to make sure you are giving customers what they need. And could very well be what sets you apart from your competition. Welcome feedback and use it to step up and come back stronger!