3 things to remember about negative social media feedback

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social-media-complaints-scaryNo brand enjoys getting negative feedback on social media.

In fact, it can be downright scary if you’re unprepared for it.

Whether it’s a brutal one-star review on your Facebook page or a snarky tweet, these social media complaints present a sizable obstacle to overcome when building and maintaining your brand’s social presence.

But it is possible to turn negative feedback into a positive customer experience, if you plan for it and handle it correctly.

With the holiday shopping season right around the corner, consumers will be more inclined to hop on social media to share their experiences -- especially negative ones -- with the businesses and brands they patronize.

Here are three things to keep in mind when you encounter a grumpy customer on your social media accounts.

1. If you delete complaints, you’re gonna have a bad time.

Following are actual social media complaints on accounts we manage:

“You guys are nuts.”

“Sooo not worth the money.”

“This place suck [sic]”

Pretty disheartening to read, right? (And those are the tame ones.) It sure is tempting to delete complaints like these. But let me offer a little bit of advice.

Don’t.

Want to watch a social media complaint escalate to a social media firestorm? Delete negative feedback and wait for customers to find out. They will be very angry, and they will likely tell their friends, who will also become very angry. Your business will be accused of ignoring or, worse, censoring customer opinions. You do not want this label clinging to your brand’s reputation, because it is very difficult to remove.

Of course, if someone is blatantly spamming your account or using vulgar, offensive or abusive language, you should definitely remove these comments if possible.

2. Customers want you to respond. Soon.

The moment a customer hits “send,” “post,” or “tweet” on a complaint is when the clock starts ticking for you to respond.

It’s up to your social media team to establish guidelines for responding to customers, but just know research shows a majority of social media users expect to receive a response in one hour or less. That’s not surprising, given the instantaneous nature of social media.

It also makes perfect sense. We’ve all been in scenarios where we’ve raised an issue at a store or restaurant. We expect a quick response offline; why should online be any different?

While it’s impossible to account for every type of complaint, come up with a few response templates in advance so you don’t have to compose from scratch every time.  This will allow you to respond to complaints faster.

3. Taking the complaint offline helps both you and the customer.

Deleting a customer complaint or letting it fester unaddressed on your account can spell big trouble for your brand. But there’s nothing wrong with moving the conversation offline, and often it greatly helps the situation.

Every social media strategy should include an escalation plan for customer complaints. Maybe it's a single email address to which you can tell customers to send their complaints. This approach gives the customer a clear next step, and it mitigates the public back-and-forth on your social media accounts.

Always take complaints on a case-by-case basis, though. If a customer takes the time to provide a thorough description of a problem, telling him or her to take the grievance elsewhere could backfire. It’s probably best in those situations to send the complaint yourself through the appropriate channel.

The nature and immediacy with which you handle negative feedback on social media greatly affects customers’ perception of your brand. Often, I’ve found a quick, apologetic response is enough to change their tune completely.

And that should make the thought of receiving negative feedback just a tad less scary.

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