Written by Grace Lau
There’s no denying social media is an incredibly powerful tool that can be used to benefit your brand name and boost your sales. 4.15 billion people use social media. That’s over 90% of worldwide internet users. While businesses can benefit from word of mouth through social media, they can also suffer from it. No business is perfect, and so complaints are inevitable.
Customers will contact your company at their convenience. This means that one day they want you to respond with high definition phone calls, another day, they’d prefer an email. If they can’t get hold of you privately, the likelihood is that their patience will run thin, and they will publicly complain.
For some people, leaving a negative comment on your recent Instagram post is their go-to channel for catching your attention. The problem with this is that social media comments are out for the whole world to see. All is not lost, though! By following this guide, you can begin to understand that businesses can deliver excellent customer services through social media, even when there are negative complaints involved.
10 Ways to Answer Negative Complaints on Social Media
Making an apology is the first thing to do when things go wrong on social media. It’s important to remember the old saying, “The customer is always right,” even when they’re not. Whether a customer is complaining about something minor or your brand message has been deeply misinterpreted, an apology always comes first. From a business perspective, an apology is a form of online reputation management.
Don't make false promises
Saying sorry is the first step, but be careful not to follow your apology up with a material resolution TOO quickly. Be sure to fully investigate the issue under question before promising a customer a brand new pair of $200 shoes. While you need to fix whatever has gone wrong, don’t make a promise you might have to retract further down the line. This will leave customers more furious than ever and feeling like they have been deceived.
Take it out of the spotlight, most of the time
Depending on the situation, it can sometimes be a good idea to address the customer's negative complaint publicly, for example, if you own a tourist restaurant and a customer who doesn’t like your food makes a complaint. Being tourists, it's unlikely they will come again anytime soon. So, make it clear their experience was a one-off. Look at the example below to see how it's done.
In some circumstances, such as a quality complaint, you should deal with the issue privately. This is because a quality complaint is likely to lead to a discount or replacement item. As mentioned earlier, if other people see what you’re offering, they might decide to post negative comments too.
Before you send a private message to a customer, be sure to acknowledge their complaint publicly. This way, the public knows that you have taken responsibility for the issue and are being transparent about resolving it. Doing this instills trust in customers, as they know their comments will not be ignored.
Both of these methods are ways of taking advantage of the spotlight. They are ways to use negative comments as a means to show your company’s excellent customer service skills.
Personalize your message
When responding to a negative complaint, be sure to show your empathy by personalizing your message. At the bare minimum, this means addressing a customer by their name. To go one step further and show how much you care about them, check how long they have been your customer.
This way, you can begin your message with, “I am so sorry to hear you are below satisfied with our service. As a long-standing customer of ours, we are disappointed to have let you down.” It’s not just about responding to a single customer. It’s about learning how to scale your business by creating personal and transparent connections with all of them.
Reply as soon as possible
Perhaps the most important point of all, this is an essential “to do” both on and off social media. One of the benefits of using chatbots on your website is that a lot of customer queries get answered quickly. Chatbots reduce the chance of customers feeling unheard and having to publicly complain to get noticed. Chatbots also reduce the risk of having the customers' digital shopping cart abandoned because it keeps them engaged with their orders.
While some businesses can afford to have a team of people dedicated to responding on social media, others are not so fortunate. If this is the case, the first person to see the comment should be the one to respond.
If you are dealing with teams in different time zones, it can be hard to track who’s working what hours and, therefore, whose job it is to respond to negative comments. A great tip to help keep on top of comments is to turn on push notifications. You can do this on most social media platforms.
Below is an example of how to turn on push notifications on Twitter:
Head to settings and privacy from your Twitter profile by clicking the three dots on the left-hand side of the screen. Then click notifications.
Underneath the “preferences” section, click “push notifications.”
Click the gray switch that appears to turn it blue. This is you clicking “allow” for push notifications.
Under the section “Related to you and your Tweets,” you will be able to customize what you want to be notified about. For mention and replies, turn on “anyone” to see all the activity that is coming through on a recent post. This way, you can keep an eye out for any negative comments and resolve them quickly.
Everyone responsible for social media turns their notifications on during working hours and turns them off when they’re not at work. This way, even if teams are working in different time zones, you're always covered.
Learn from your mistakes, and also other people’s!
It’s ok if you make a mistake when responding to negative comments. Mistakes are not failures. They’re opportunities to learn. If your company is conducting a social media competitive analysis, you can be well ahead of the game by monitoring how competitors respond to negative comments. This way, you can learn from their mistakes before accidentally making the same one yourself!
If there is an opportunity to explain yourself, do. It’s a great opportunity to deepen customer interactions. While an apology and discount are great, what’s even better is leaving customers feeling understood. For example, if someone’s parcel has not arrived, explain the reason why, and give them a certain date of arrival, along with a 10% discount.
Generate positive comments
While negative comments hold the potential to damage your business reputation, positive comments hold the potential to boost it! In 2020, 94% of customers said that a positive review would make them more likely to use a business, while 92% of people said negative reviews would make them unlikely to use a business. People are more likely to be affected by positive comments than negative ones - the cup’s half full!
A great way to overcome negative comments is to outweigh them with positive ones. Through engaging with positive customer comments, as well as negative ones, you are likely to encourage people to comment again.
There are also lots of ways to increase social media engagement, such as tools to use with Instagram to boost your ecommerce. Posting humorous content that's likely to get laughs is also a good way to get more positive responses on your socials.
It sounds obvious enough, but be it in response to a positive or a negative comment, people like polite replies. Online customers can be sensitive to humor. Even if you think your witty response will go down a treat, you don’t want to leave customers feeling publicly embarrassed after an interaction with you. Be sensitive when responding.
Follow up the issue
Once you have resolved something, follow it up with a message asking how they felt you dealt with the issue. This is especially important if a customer has blanked your previous message addressing their concern. You want to confirm the conclusion you have reached is satisfactory for both parties. Make sure that whatever happens, your interaction ends on a sweet note. This way, customers will be more inclined to reach out politely in the future.
Don’t Let Negative Complaints Impact Your Brand
Now, you know how to answer negative complaints on social media like a pro! The next thing to do is stay on top of your social media comments on all platforms. Word of mouth spreads fast, but comments posted on social media spread ultra-fast. Who knows what negative comment might go viral?
There are plenty of brand building strategies out there, and responding effectively to negative complaints on social media is a simple and effective one. Be sure to keep the reins on any negative complaint by acting fast. Resolve the issue before there's time for it to affect other customers' ideas of your brand.
Grace Lau is the Director of Growth Content at Dialpad, an AI-powered cloud communications platform for better and easier team collaboration. She has over 10 years of experience in content writing and strategy. Currently, she is responsible for leading branded and editorial content strategies, partnering with SEO and Ops teams to build and nurture content. She has written for domains such as PayTabs and UpDraftPlus. Here is her LinkedIn.