How to manage customer complaints on social media – and not let them manage you!

A social media presence of some form is absolutely essential for any business, but it can be a lot more time-consuming and stressful than you might think to actually run a social networking account.

It seems straightforward – you post regularly with company news, witty titbits and promotional messages, and this whips up interest in your brand and brings in new business, right? Unfortunately, there is another side of the coin, one that is a little harder to manage.

As you have a social media presence, this is likely to be the channel that customers will use to air their grievances with the brand, whether justified or groundless. You can expect at least a handful of complaints, and perhaps even insulting messages, even if your business is very small.

How to manage customer complaints on social media – for the sake of the brand

How you deal with complaints is incredibly important, as your response is likely to stick around online for some time to come, and it could even form the basis of negative reviews about your brand. As a study by Dimensional Research in 2013 showed, around 86% of internet users are heavily influenced by negative reviews about a company – so you must avoid handing people ammunition with which to damage the reputation of your brand. Respond in the right way and you can alleviate customer concerns before they reach the ‘angry review’ stage.

So, how should you be responding to complaints made via social media?

Dealing with complaints properly is an art, and the first thing to learn is that you should never reply on an impulse, no matter how provoking the original message. An angry, sarcastic or passive-aggressive response will only fan the flames of the customer’s initial grievance, and an argument with a customer who believes he or she is in the right is one you can never win.

Don’t be hasty in responding and try to take emotion (especially anger) completely out of the equation. A good idea is to take a few minutes away from the computer, or consult a colleague on the right approach to take.

Next, you should try to:

  • Fully understand the situation – try to see things from the customer’s point of view, put yourself in their shoes
  • Assess whether the complaint has grounds – there is a big difference between a genuine complaint and an unprovoked attack by an internet troll, and you need to work out the difference
  • Go offline – a piece of very good advice from entrepreneur.com is to take the problem out of the public realm, by emailing or calling the customer directly. You’ll avoid public embarrassment and the wrong kind of attention directed towards your brand, and you’ll please the customer by providing personal customer service and taking their complaint seriously.

Always respond!

Even if you’re taking the time to draft an appropriate response, always post a message to the customer letting them know that you’re taking their complaint seriously. Remember, other customers will be reading the conversation!

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