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How your small business can handle social media complaints

By Alexandra Gavril - January 16, 2016

More consumers are turning to social media channels like Facebook and Twitter to voice their complaints than ever before, revealed a study by customer contact outsourcer Echo Managed Services. According to the study, 18% of people now go on social media channels before any other channel to share negative feedback about their experiences.

The same percentage of people turn to social media before any other channel when a complicated problem arises, and 14% turn to it first in a crisis, such as when a flight is cancelled. Social media is also the first channel that 13% of consumers turn to when looking to request more information and a further 14% use it to make bookings.

And here’s the interesting part: almost one in three (29%) consumers would move to another business if they received poor service via social media. In this post we’ll talk about the importance of being responsive on social media and the best ways to handle social media complaints.

Are you being responsive enough on social media?

This survey reveals just how important it is to be responsive on social media and to provide your customers or potential customers with all the support they need. So make sure you take a closer look at how you’re handling customer questions, feedback and complaints to ensure you’re addressing issues quickly.

If you’re a small business, it’s best to have a dedicated person who is responsible, knowledgeable and prepared to handle customer enquiries and complaints as quickly and efficiently as possible. The important thing here is to respond quickly and to ensure you do everything in your power to offer a viable solution to the customer’s problem.

If there’s one thing that the results of this survey has shown is that more and more customers are using social media in all kind of different situations, whether it’s to complain, to share feedback or to ask for help. People are no longer using Facebook, Twitter and other social networks simply to keep up with the latest news or to receive special offers from a company. They are now turning to social media to have more urgent matters resolved, and to get instant responses to their complaints.

Monitor your social media channels at all times

Since more customers are now sharing complaints publicly and openly, it’s imperative to have a strategy in place on how to handle social media comments. Imagine how damaging it would be to your reputation if you left an unhappy customer waiting for days because your only monitor your social media channels two or three days a week.

This is not uncommon for small business owners who don’t have the time to manage every social channel all the time. It can be nearly impossible to ensure consistent customer service across all communication channels.

But here’s the thing: not prioritising social networks as much as your phone or email support can be risky. You risk losing customers and also damaging your hard-earned efforts towards building your online reputation if you fail to respond quickly to the queries and complaints you receive on social media.

When people research your business online and arrive on your Facebook page, and they almost always do, you know they’re looking at reviews and ratings. But they’re also looking at the response rate and response time, which Facebook made public information to show how quickly you respond to customer messages.

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So whether it’s public or private messages, don’t ignore your fans and followers because they’re becoming too savvy to be put as low priority on your list. In addition, this trend is expected to grow at a rapid rate over the coming years as more customers are getting online to ask for information, for help or to complain about a negative experience.

Ways to handle any complaint on social media

Even the best of businesses have disgruntled customers. Sometimes it’s because customers have unrealistic expectations, other times it’s because businesses make mistakes. No matter the situation, dealing with complaints on social media is part of business.

Here are some tips that you can use to help manage upset customers on social media:

Monitor your social media mentions. Always keep an eye on what people are saying about your business online. While you should check your social channels at least once a day, there are tools that you can use to get social media alerts when someone mentions you brand so you can react quickly. In this post you can find six great tools for monitoring mentions and social sentiment.

Respond quickly. 72% of consumers expect brands to respond to complaints posted on Twitter within an hour, according to a study. If that’s not possible, at least do your best to respond as quickly as you can.

Don’t delete negative comments. This will bring into question your integrity to not only the person who complained, but also to all your followers. While you should definitely remove inappropriate comments (ones that are racist, derogatory, pornographic, etc.), ones that are too far off-topic, or just trying to use your site to sell a product or service, don’t remove negative comments. Instead, respond with a useful comment that can help solve the customer’s issue.

Respond to each complaint publicly but don’t discuss every detail. Instead ask the person to email or direct message you more information. When the issue is resolved, make sure you go back to the public message and ask if the issue has been resolved.

Move the conversation to private. It doesn’t matter how fantastic your customer support is. You can always run the risk of things spiralling out of control, which is why you can ask them to direct message you via social media to discuss the situation more in-depth.

Keep it cool. Don’t take the comment personal or challenge the person negatively. Remember that these conversations are public and you’ll be judged not only by that customer but all your followers or fans. It’s not about being right but about helping the customer.

Wrapping up

With so many people now perfectly comfortable using social media in a variety of situations, you need to take social media seriously (if you aren’t already) and ensure it’s fully joined up with the other communication channels you use for a seamless customer experience. Don’t and you risk a permanently damaged reputation.

What are your top tips for handling social media complaints?