Andrew Warren-Payne, senior research analyst at digital marketing research group Econsultancy:
1. If necessary take it off-line
Some things you won’t be able to solve either diplomatically or satisfactorily through social media. It’s always best to ask them to direct message you an email address or phone number, or ask them to call you.
That’s for two reasons: it prevents an escalation, which can happen; and, more importantly, if that’s the best way you can give customer service, by taking it offline, that’s what you should do.
2. Be open, honest and transparent
That’s the priority that needs to underline a lot of the social media activities, whether you’re an SME or a huge corporation. People will find you out and they won’t trust what you’re saying.
3. Don’t feed the trolls
Some customers do not want to be satisfied on social media. The trolls are people that are trying to damage your brand and just want to illicit a reaction.
If you’ve done all you can, nothing is working and they are a troll, then just don’t feed them anymore, which means try and bow out of the conversation and wait for it to dry up, which in 99 per cent of the cases they do.
Louise Durham, social media consultant at digital marketing agency Blonde Digital:
4. Respond publicly, follow-up privately
Not only is it important to respond to complaints in a timely manner, it’s also crucial that you’re seen to be doing so by your wider customer base.
If a customer leaves a negative comment about a faulty product, for example, reply publicly with an apology and asking them to forward full details to an email address so this can be investigated fully.
You can then take the nuts and bolts of sorting the issue out away from the public domain.
5. Don’t be afraid of negative feedback
Whilst it’s important to respond to genuine complaints or issues, be wary of appearing too defensive or – worse still – deleting the comment. If you’ve built a reliable, trustworthy brand that provides a good service, you’ll often find your loyal customers will jump to your company’s defence themselves. Their genuine, unsolicited positivity will really help to bolster confidence in your brand for others.
6. Use negative feedback as an opportunity to learn and grow
Your social media audience is the largest, most unbiased focus group in the world. Ensure you’re constantly listening to what they saying about you, on your own digital channels and other forums, such as blogs.
Mark Kelly, a consultant, producer and trainer at digital marketing agency Mark Kelly Digital
7. Plan for social media complaints
Be prepared for a range of scenarios before they occur. Google ‘social media triage’ and you’ll find a range of workflow diagrams that illustrate the point. You are looking to stream different types of comments or complaints to the right people in your business, and have a plan around how to react to each particular comment ‘type’.
8. Don’t be an ostrich
Don’t ignore complaints (they may well then escalate) unless they are very clearly trolls. And respond quickly, having a timely answer stops comments escalating. People (both in their personal and business life) expect quick responses nowadays and get quickly disgruntled if a brand or company seems to be taking ‘too long’ to respond to a query or complaint.
9. Take it off-line
The initial acknowledgement to the complaint or comment should be on the same social channel that the customer used (that will aid brand perception in the eyes of others), but that doesn’t mean you have to solve the issue immediately and in that same public space. You are better giving the complainant a private channel and answering their issues in-depth there.