5-steps-for-handling-customer-complaints-on-social-mediaSocial media platforms can be a highly effective tool for you as a business owner, but it can also be something of a double-edged sword because your customers can bring complaints to the public eye as well as kudos. When this happens, you might feel panicked because this kind of negative feedback can have an effect on your employees, spread very quickly across a number of social media pages, and perhaps even lose you sales. However, there are a few steps you can take in order to handle complaints quickly and effectively so they do not spiral out of control.

1. Be Vigilant

While you are no doubt busy with the day-to-day operation of your business, it is important to block out time each day to check your social media accounts for possible complaints. While it is difficult to catch every complaint the moment it comes in, dedicating time to this practice every day will allow you to at least be aware of a situation within a short amount of time. If your business has experienced a growth spurt recently, consider hiring a social media manager to monitor your accounts and let you know about customer service issues.

2. Investigate and Be Sympathetic

When a customer takes a complaint to social media, your first instinct will probably be to look into what went wrong with their order or product, but before you do so, it is important that you reach out and let the customer know that you understand their disappointment and that you are doing everything you can to rectify the situation. If you maintain silence while you investigate, this may only make the customer angrier and they may retaliate by publicly criticizing your lack of customer service.

Sometimes, customers make comments that may make you feel like they are not deserving of your empathy, but you should keep in mind that they are probably angrier about the situation than they are at you, the owner, so responding to angry comments with a calm, sympathetic tone is likely to soothe them and getting into a public flame war will only make you seem unprofessional.

3. Answer Publicly, Take Action Privately

You may think that removing the complaint from your social media sites and handling it offline might be a viable course of action, but you should keep in mind that your other followers are watching as well. If you delete the complaint and reach out to the customer privately, others might assume that you ignored the complaint completely and this assumption could lead to a loss of potential customers who have lost trust in you.

To maintain transparency but offer the customer a measure of privacy, offer apologies on your social media page, acknowledge the error, and then let them know that you will be contacting them personally to resolve the issue at hand.

4. Respond With A Human Touch

Few things make a customer feel less valued than lodging a legitimate complaint about a product or service and receiving a standard, canned response that every other unhappy customer got in reply as well. A response like this may only serve to increase their feelings of annoyance and anger, so reaching out personally may prevent this.

Warm, personable engagement on any social media can go a long way in making your followers feel satisfied. For example, Hampton Creek, a food company that creates plant-based, non-dairy mayonnaise, cookie dough, and salad dressings, interacts with its followers on its Instagram page by answering questions and comments in a friendly tone that its customers have truly responded to. When a business offers this kind of human touch on a social media page, it can make its followers feel appreciated on a deeper level.

5. Decide Who Will Handle the Resolution

Handling the resolution to any complaint quickly and efficiently can go a long way in diffusing a potentially damaging situation, so having a plan in place for this type of occasion is important. Appoint a complaints officer for your company, map out the steps they should take, and what your company’s goal should be for a turnaround time when it comes to reaching a resolution. Having a plan in place may help you handle complaints more efficiently when they arise.

Social media can be a useful tool for any startup, but when problems arise with customer complaints, knowing how to correct them can mean the difference between keeping a customer and losing one forever.

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