As Customers Take Complaints Online, Be Prepared.
Do you respond to online concerns?
If you do, how and when do you respond to online concerns?
There are definite dos and don’ts as it pertains to handling disgruntled customers. To be clear, social media is not a customer-service-only platform. Social media is a great tool for brand recognition, lead generation, and marketing a service or product.
As social media is a social online space, when people get mad or upset at a brand, or a specific employee or situation, they will go to social media to air their grievances.
You as a business owner or social media manager should have a reputation management plan to fall back on!
Don't think it can or will happen to you?
Even the best of brands: the most customer-friendly brands, the biggest brands, the smallest brands, anyone can be affected by a bad one-star review or a customer rant.
When you have an online crisis at hand, you will want to respond quickly, precisely and with authority. Plan now, so that your next crisis will not destroy your online reputation.
In this article, you will learn
- How to prepare your brand in case of online concerns
- Best practices for how to best respond to online concerns
- What not to do and say when people say mean things about you online
How To Respond to Online Concerns
There is one important piece of advice social media experts give as it pertains to reputation management.
Do not ignore negative comments or reviews. Instead, make sure to respond – within 24 hours if at all possible!
It might be tempting to ignore online complaints, concerns, and negative reviews. It might be tempting to delete negative comments and ban people from your page. After all, it is your page, right?
Deleting comments and banning people from your page should be your last resort to solving an online conflict.
Instead, follow these guidelines.
Respond as quickly as you, or your team, can and do it with compassion. This does not mean that you immediately assume responsibility for whatever went wrong with your brand's customer service. Your first response should be an acknowledgment the complaint was received and should include a request for a valid email address and phone number for follow up purposes to gather more information.
Next, you will want to try to resolve the issue offline hence the request for email and phone number. Whatever it is that went wrong, you do not need the whole wide world and all the people on the interwebs to have a front row seat as you resolve this issue. Take the conversation offline as soon as you are able.
If you can not move the conversation away from the public eye, above all stay cool, calm and collected. Respond no more than twice. If after your attempt to connect offline to make things right the disgruntled customer continues to spout nasty words and will not stop their rant or complaint, it is time to stop responding.
There are several more steps you can take to stop customers from ruining your online reputation, on Facebook, or elsewhere.
Let's start with how to respond to one-star reviews.
How To Respond To One-Star Reviews
The first tip we give is to respond. Do not ignore your one-star reviews. They will not go away, even if you flag them on Facebook. It is very hard to prove to Facebook that the customer was wrong (and you were right) and hardly ever are negative reviews removed by Facebook.
The only person who can quickly remove the negative one-star Facebook review, is the reviewer.
Therefore, you need to acknowledge the review and start a conversation with the disgruntled reviewer because, without your response, s/he will not remove the review. Your job is to try to resolve the issue quickly and to their satisfaction.
Next, you will want to ask the reviewer to connect offline with a customer representative to help resolve their issue. Ask for an email address and phone number.
After you are able to respond and you have resolved the issue at hand, ask the reviewer to remove or update their review to reflect their satisfaction with the outcome of the dispute. Do this as soon as you've resolved the complaint.
If you, however, get nowhere with this dissatisfied customer, be prepared to ban them from your Facebook Page if the review is posted there. Sometimes, a disgruntled person will get up in arms and will assemble an army of friends to leave one-star reviews on your page, despite these friends not being customers. At that point, the only thing you can do is to turn off Facebook reviews altogether and unpublish the ones you have.
Under no circumstance should you ever publically respond to a one-star review with an offer. Do not offer free merchandise, replacement merchandise or a merchandise refund. This would set a dangerous precedent for future transactions. Keep how you resolve online concerns and issues private!
Check out how Social Media Pro responded to a 1-star review.
What Not To Do When People Say Mean Things About you Online
You can not stop all people from complaining, or from saying mean things about you.
What you do have complete control over is how you react to these online accusations.
10 Ways You Should Never Respond to Online Concerns
- Argue with a customer
- Publicly defend your actions, right or wrong
- State you ‘will take full responsibility' (do this in a private message)
- Use all caps to scream at a customer
- ‘Feed the trolls' and give them more ammunition (such as facts)
- Delete comments (hide them instead)
- Offer free merchandise, publically
- Use profanity
- Spout vulgar language
- Verbally attack your customer
Now that we've set the bar for what not to do and say, how does one respond to online concerns for the best possible outcome?
Best Tips for a Stellar Reputation Management Plan
The best possible outcome for an online concern comes when you are prepared with a reputation management plan and practical tactics to go along with it.
Know and plan for “if this, then that” happens.
You can do this best with a written reputation management plan that is distributed to, and can be activated by all team members as soon as a crisis unfolds.
Your reputation management plan should feature
- Ways to monitor online conversations about your brand
- Standard (canned) responses to several scenarios
- Best practices on how to handle negativity and complaints
- Positive actions to take when good online conversations and mentions happen
- Expected response time to all complaints and negative reviews
- Resolutions to the most common customer service issues
- Names and contact information for all decision makers
- Reporting procedures for all online concerns
Don't Forget About Screenshots!
If you spend any time online, you've seen good and bad online behavior. You've seen kind business owners and those who respond to concerns with hatred and vulgar words. You've seen social media managers who go on the defense, and those who attack.
One thing we should all remember at all times is that
Screenshots last forever!
Even if you end up deleting a nasty tweet you sent, or a Facebook post that went sideways, or if you hide all of your Facebook reviews, screenshots can and might be used against you.
Check out this tweeted response by Virgin TRains EC that was quickly deleted by other members of the team. Not quick enough as this image did the rounds in our Social Media Managers Facebook group, long after it was deleted.
For those of us who are not involved with a certain dispute, it often plays out as a comedy or thriller, entertaining us to no end. You might say to yourself, “I can not believe this is happening”.
Next time though, I encourage you to think “What can I learn from this situation?” and do just that, learn from other people's mistakes.
Are you looking for some help on how to positively respond to negative Yelp reviews?
Or, would you like to know how effective these business owners were responding to negative Yelp reviews?
Alternatively, dive deep into reputation management with this handy guide.
Be sure to let us know in the comments if you've ever had to resolve an online dispute, and how you managed it!
I am a Certified Social Media Manager, Strategist, International Keynote Speaker, Organic Specialist and Agile marketer! Blogging is my creative outlet. Running, hiking and skiing are how I recharge. You'll recognize me on stage and online by my always present orange glasses, a nod to my Dutch heritage.