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Updated: Nov 20, 2017
Customer service is a lot more complicated than it used to be. While it was once primarily done face-to-face, the internet has unleashed customer communications online. And although this has made it easier than ever to respond quickly, this also makes it all the more challenging — and public — if someone is unhappy.
The good news is that social media can be a powerful tool for your business if used correctly. If someone wants to post on your Facebook page or mention you on Twitter, they can — and do! According to a recent Sprout Social survey, 90% of people have used social to communicate with a brand, so you should make sure you’re communicating back.
While everyone can see a customer’s complaint on social media, they can also see your response, which is a great opportunity to show that you care about what people are saying and want to improve your business.
At this point, you may be rolling your eyes. There’s no way a brand could ever turn an unhappy customer into an advocate, right? However, the Sprout Social survey also found that if a brand responds or reaches out to them on social…
But enough about the “why” you should respond. What do you even say? Here are eight tips that’ll help you turn your loudest detractors into some of your biggest cheerleaders.
As a business owner, you’re probably already juggling a million things and think monitoring your social media channels 24/7 is hardly a priority. But a quick response isn’t just a nice-to-have — consumers have actually come to expect a response within 4 hours, Sprout Social says.
Don’t worry: this doesn’t mean you have to refresh your Facebook window every few minutes. If you have a social listening tool like Hootsuite or Sprout Social, you can connect your social media channels and they’ll let you know whenever there’s a message waiting for you.
The only thing worse than not responding to a negative comment is writing an aggressive response.
Remember: everyone can see the interactions between you and your customers on social media, so it’s important to put yourself in their shoes and treat them how you’d like to be treated (even if they were being rude first).
If necessary, take a few moments to calm yourself. Then, assess the situation and politely present your side of the story, apologize for the confusion, and/or address their concerns. The customer may not always be right, but it’s your job to make them feel valued.
Bonus tip: If you want to minimize angry retorts to your responses, consider signing your responses with a real name, as it’s harder to get angry at a person than a nameless corporation.
If the consumer is especially irate or monopolizing your page, you may want to encourage them to contact you directly, and help guide them to a more appropriate channel for customer service. This can be done with a kind, to-the-point response like “Hi Alex, thanks for sharing your concerns. We’d love to talk about this more — can you message us your phone number or email address so we can reach out to you directly?”
This helps by both de-escalating the response and taking the exchange offline. Even if the customer is still angry by the time you get them on the phone, at least the whole world won’t see it. When you talk to the customer, take the time to answer their questions, and sincerely try to help.
You shouldn’t block everyone who writes something negative about you (because that’s not what that button is for!), but some people are there just to push your buttons. You don’t want them spreading lies about you, so sometimes blocking is the best option.
Bonus tip: To ensure you’re not blocking anyone in a fit of rage, consider implementing a “three strikes” policy — if they write an inappropriate comment, whether to you or other consumers, warn them to watch their language or you’ll ban them. Then, if their behavior continues two more times, you shouldn’t feel guilty about banning them.
It sounds counterintuitive, but people don’t trust perfect companies. Negative reviews show you’re human, and your responses show you care about improving your business. If the comment looks like spam, by all means delete it. But if the comment looks real, look at it as an opportunity to win customers over, and send a thoughtful response.
While canned responses can be a great time-saver for questions over email, if an already-unhappy customer is reaching out to you over social media, giving them the response you’ve been giving everyone else is not going to help the situation any.
Whether it’s taking the time to address them by name or include a cute GIF, do whatever you can to make them feel like a valued customer … instead of just one of many customers you need to respond to.
People aren’t always going to complain directly to your face … errr, social media handle. This is your opportunity to surprise and delight unhappy customers by addressing their concerns without them having to come to you.
If you haven’t already, get a social media listening platform and set up searches for your company name, plus variations and common misspellings (e.g. Funding Circle, fundingcircle, fundingcircle.com, etc.). That way, you’ll be able to see what people are saying about you — whether they mention/tag you or not — and proactively initiate a conversation.
Emergencies happen. Sites go down, social media managers go rogue, and bad pieces of press leave customers wondering whether they can ever trust your company again.
Do you know what you’ll do in each of those situations? Take the time to pre-write responses to the likeliest questions, and run them by affected parties on your team (including your attorney) in advance.
While it may take some time, it’s important to have a documented social media plan in place so that you don’t freak out or freeze in an emergency. Your future self will thank you.
Bonus tip: You may want to set expectations for wait times and rules for appropriate behavior on your social media channels. Let people on your pages know you’ll remove spammy comments and that they should expect a response within a certain amount of time, even if that’s to let them know you won’t be responding before 7am or after 7pm. That way, they won’t sit with bated breath waiting for a response at midnight.
Paige Smith is a Content Marketing Writer and Senior Contributing Writer at Funding Circle. She has a bachelor's degree in English Literature from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, and specializes in writing about the intersection of business, finance, and tech. Paige has written for a number of B2B industry leaders, including fintech companies, small business lenders, and business credit resource sites.