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How to handle the haters: Deal with negative social media feedback like a pro

I had a bad experience recently with a telco service provider, or should I say, a lack-of-service provider. The ensuing experience with their customer support team to try and resolve the issue was even worse. So I did what I had never done before - I tweeted about it.

Taking to social media to vent my frustrations as a ‘keyboard warrior’ was, for me, a last resort. I would prefer to give a company the opportunity to resolve an issue directly, rather than play the social shaming game. But, frustrated by their lack of assistance, I knew that one way to quickly get attention would be to share it with the masses. It worked. They were on it practically immediately to try and douse any further flare-ups from me. I’m fairly certain they have a whole team purely dedicated to dealing with situations like this, but as a small business, you likely don’t have that luxury.

The reality is, social media is not a one-way conversation to your customers. Remember, this is a good thing; building relationships with your customers is important! But the consumer has a lot of power when it comes to how your brand is perceived online. Unfortunately, you can’t make everybody happy all the time, and you can’t control what people say about you online - whether it is deserved or not. What you can control though, is how you respond to it.

Here are 8 tips for dealing with negative social media interactions:

1. Establish a process

If you don’t have a dedicated social media community manager, decide who (if it’s not going to be you) in your business will be the person to monitor online conversations, deal with issues or elicit responses from the relevant departments.

2. Identify the problem

Is the feedback constructive criticism, a warranted rant, or simply trolling (spam)? The type of feedback you’re presented with will influence your response.

For genuine problems, where your company or product is at fault, a response is always necessary. If you’re in the wrong, apologise. A real one, that is, not one of those round-about apologies that lack sincerity. Communicate with your customer quickly, and if possible, ask for an alternative means to get in touch with them, away from public eye, so you can reach a resolution that keeps both sides happy.

Similarly, constructive criticism generally warrants a response. Even if you have no intention of implementing their suggestion, you should still offer thanks for their ideas and reply in a positive way.

“Thanks X for your sharing your ideas! [Company] is always keen to hear how we can make things easier for our customers. While we don’t currently have plans for this right now, we’ll take your thoughts on-board and be sure to keep it in mind for future product updates.”

It’s best not to encourage trolls at all, nip conversations in the bud quickly before you get into to-ing and fro-ing that can cause damage to your brand. However, if you have a witty burn or a light-hearted dig to dish out, you might end up winning fans rather than losing them!

sainsburys

3. Resist the urge to remove

Never censor negative feedback. While hitting ‘delete’ might be the knee-jerk reaction, don’t think that removing an angry message will make the problem go away, in fact it will probably encourage more negative feedback. Make sure your customers know you have nothing to hide!

4. Stay positive

It can be hard to take criticism towards your business or service, but even if you’d like to bite back with a snarky comment, you can still have the last laugh while keeping your response positive.

Take a look at this clever response from SmartCar USA - pretty good comeback, huh? I bet that shut him up!

smartcartweet

5. Take it offline if you can

You don’t want to enter a long conversation stream with your disgruntled customer online, so ask for the best way to get in touch with them directly so that you can resolve the issue, or offer an email address or phone number for them to contact you.

However, you should also publicly demonstrate that the problem has been sorted. For example, if your complaint came through your Facebook page, write a final message here such as ‘We’re pleased that we were able to resolve this for you and we look forward to continuing to provide you with [service] in the future’.

6. Don’t take it personally

Keyboard warriors are emboldened by the safety of their computer screen, giving them the confidence to serve criticism, negativity and harsh language. The worst thing you can do is to take this to heart. If you feel defensive, don’t respond straight away. Give yourself time to come up with a helpful and reasonable response that gives your complainant little fuel to continue their tirade.

tesco

7. Follow up

Touch base with your customer again once an issue has been addressed to ensure that they’re now happy with how things are going. It demonstrates that you genuinely care about keeping them as a long-term customer.

8. Don’t ignore feedback

If you’re regularly getting negative feedback or frustrated customers, it’s time to take a close look at your services or processes to see where things are going wrong.

Increasingly connected customers are researching online and also complaining online when things don’t go quite their way. If you’re able to swiftly offer a remedy in a professional and constructive manner, you’ll likely preserve your brand’s reputation and maybe even win yourself some new fans.

Have you had to deal with negative feedback on social media? What was your approach? Share your experiences in the comments below!

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