The do's and don'ts of handling negative comments on social media [template]

Almost 50% of Australian consumers are now accessing social media every day (up to 79% for the 18-29 age group), yet only 31% of SME businesses actively operate a social media engagement strategy, according to the Sensis Social Media Report 2015

When embarking on a business social media campaign, go in with your eyes wide open - there will be some great responses and interaction with your happy audience but there may also be some customer complaints.  

The very nature of social media makes it easy for people to complain, so expect to get some.  Have a look at the Commbank facebook page, it is filled with unhappy customers.  Every customer complaint is on show for all to see.  Not only can your audience read the complaints, they are also closely watching how you handle it.  

How are you going to deal with the customer complaints?

Complaints can have negative effects on social media, and on your business, however, if they are handled well and quickly can also shine a positive light on your business.  

You know yourself if you have had to complain about a product or service, if it is handled swiftly, sincerely and you come out ahead, the experience can be turned from a negative to a positive.  Everybody understands things happen and you just want to feel like a valued customer.

And so, it is wise to have a plan with all social media administrators on how to handle social media complaints, helps you to deal with them quickly and professionally.

The first thing to do with negative comments on social media is to try to avoid them in the first place.  Do this by offering lots of opportunities for customers to complain that are offline and not so public. Even though there will always be those that love to read their name on screen and see the reaction, offer an email address on all correspondence and digital presence for customers to complain to.

Here are some do’s and don’ts of handling social media complaints -

Do pick the right administrators to monitor social media

Dealing with complaints takes a certain personality; patient, professional, a person that does not bite easily and stays on focus.  Read about Dan from Optus and how his replies impressed his 272,000 Optus facebook fans.

Do deal with negative social media quickly

There seems to be a spotlight put on unanswered social media complaints.  Ensure your administrators respond quickly to them, even if it is just a ‘we will get back to you shortly’ or ‘have you tried the link to our website’.  Followers expect a response and are wondering why you haven’t answered them.  A good rule of thumb is respond to them ASAP and usually within the timeframe of how often you post.  That is, if you post every day, the minimum response to answer complaints is every day. Seeing an unanswered complaint when a new post has been published is not a good look.

Do personalise the social media complaint

Use the name of the person who complained in the reply, just like you are talking to them.  Remember, this is social media, it’s time to get social!

Do apologise and clarify the complaint

Do this no matter what! No matter how wrong the customer is.

Examples – ‘Sarah, I apologise your delivery was missed today…’.  ‘Steve, I am sorry you feel this way about our customer service...’.

Do bring in the CEO for big complaints

If it is a serious or recurring problem affecting a large number of customers, bring in the CEO.  This is a great PR exercise as customers love to hear from management and it makes them feel like their business is worthy as the CEO has time to engage with them.  Here the CEO of Telstra, Andy Penn tweets to tell customers he is reading all their complaints, when the system went down again in May 2016.

Don’t send out generic answers

With all the history kept on social media, followers can instantly see if you are replying with a standard response. This isn’t good enough, this is the time to engage with your audience.

Don’t handle the complaint online

Take it offline, as quickly as possible.  For most complaints, never ever try to sort out a complaint over social media, as it could get worse.  Offer them a phone number or email address to deal with the problem quickly.  Make sure though that the phone number you give the person is aware of the complaint so the poor person does not have to go through all the details again.  For some complaints, that your company has handled well, use the social media network to advertise this fact, to show that you are a proactive business willing to help your customers.

Don’t ignore complaints

This includes deleting them from social media. Never ever!  This could make the complaint worse and get other followers off side as they join in.

Don’t be complacent, learn from complaints and turn them around!

Complaints can be a great source of feedback on how your company is performing, in terms of brand, product or service wise.   They can highlight the areas where your business is failing and the departments that are working well!  Table up the number of complaints, the nature of the complaint and how it was handled so you can see where the problems lie and fix them so that you can minimise future complaints.  

Say for instance, there was a problem with product damage during delivery.  After several complaints, the warehouse changed the way they were packaging the product.  Use this new packaging as a post on social media.  Take a picture of the warehouse staff with the new packaging!  


Get everyone on the same page - download the social media complaint template now.  Plan to follow up to check your social media complaint strategy is working.  


Need help with any of your social media strategies and content, send me an email and we can improve your sales by making your social media engaging, informative and fun!