How to Respond to Unhappy Customers on Social Media

Kristin Lesko - July 16, 2012

If you have a company profile page on social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google+, or LinkedIn, you’ve taken a step in the right direction by leading the conversation about your brand and engaging with your customers. But what do you do when some of those customers don’t want to play nice? While your first instinct might be to block a customer who writes a negative comment—or worse, write them a huffy response with a few choice words of your own, we’d encourage you to stop for a moment and step away from the keyboard. Although blocking them or retaliating may make you feel better short-term, long-term, you just lost a customer—and you did it in front of your audience. So before you let it all out, take all the information in and read on to find out how you can turn a negative situation into a positive one that will increase your customer’s loyalty to your brand.

Be Prepared
Has the perfect comeback ever come to you about three hours after you actually needed it? We know the feeling. No one likes being caught off-guard, especially when it comes to confrontation. That’s why we advise companies to plan ahead. Based on your industry, think of five to 10 of the most common issues customers might complain about, such as the amount of time a service takes to be completed. You may even want to ask other team members who work with customers on a daily basis to weigh in on complaints that they hear. From there, write a response to each of the criticisms that addresses the concern in a professional manner and offers a next step or plan of action to resolve the problem. Be very cautious about offering free services, products or discounts in your public responses to an unhappy customer, as it may invite unwarranted complaints from other customers just looking for something for free. And you don’t want to be giving out complementary dinners to everyone just because they say their soda was flat the last time they ate at your restaurant.

Respond in a Timely Manner
There is nothing more embarrassing then a negative comment left up on a company’s profile page for days, with no response. Not only does that make it appear like the company doesn’t care about its customers’ concerns, it also may lead a potential customer to believe that the negative statement is valid, and it may not be. In addition, if an outdated negative comment is the first thing a potential customer sees when looking at your company profile page, they might be discouraged from using your services or products in the first place. If possible, a response time of less than 24 hours is ideal, which means that someone must regularly monitor your social media platforms for new activity. On the same token, don’t limit your responses to negative comments only. Reward the positive comments by “Liking” them or responding with a positive comment of your own. Sometimes simply thanking them for their business in response will suffice.

Handle Public Grievances Privately
When someone airs their grievances on a public platform, such as Facebook or Twitter, it’s good to respond to their post or comment once publically so that customers can see that your company did address the issue and try to resolve it. In your response, always give the customer a phone number or email where they can reach someone on your team who can discuss their issues and concerns with them further to reach a resolution. Don’t try to hash it out in back and forth posts on your profile page, always take it behind the scenes after your initial public response. If you’ve responded to the unhappy customer and they still proceed to post negative comments regularly or they use inappropriate language, then you can delete the comments or take it to the next level and block them as a user with a clear conscious.

The most important message to convey with your responses to negative feedback on social media is that your brand handles conflict professionally, addresses the actual problem, tries to resolve it, and is still the best choice for that particular product or service at the end of the day.

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