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4 steps to handle social media complaints, with Ross Hewitt

There is no modern business for which social media is not important. Ross Hewitt advises on best practice for handling negative comments in the public eye

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Ross Hewitt, managing director, Secret Pie

Social media is a part of life for nearly every business which provides a service or sells something. Eventually, someone somewhere will make a mistake. If that mistake affects a customer who is very active on social media, then they are likely to make lots of noise about it. This is where you need to react quickly to try and turn negative into positive (or shift it to neutral, at least).

Step 1: Listen

You need to be in a position to pick up on any mentions about your business quickly after they’re posted. Visit your social media accounts on a daily basis. You need to be actively checking your account so that if someone has sent a message or posted a comment, you will see it and be able to respond in a timely manner.

Step 2: Fix it

Always look for a way to fix the problem. Try not to get into any sort of debate in a public forum that could become argumentative. You will never ‘win’ in these situations and you may end up making the issue bigger than it needs to be.

Wherever possible, keep the discussion in the public zone. It is not best practice to try and get the issue taken offline as quickly as possible. The goal should always be to publicly demonstrate that you care about the customer and to resolve it efficiently. If the person you are dealing with is being completely unreasonable, then be confident that other people will also view their responses as obtuse.

Step 3: Respond

Read the negative message a few times through, at a sensible pace so that you digest fully what the person is saying. Do not skim read it or you may miss out on some important semantics that are crucial to the issue being
raised.

If you know that some investigation must proceed on your part, acknowledge the complaint and promise to come back to them when you have looked into the issue. That is a promise you must keep. Responding quickly is key as it nips any further posts about lack of care in the bud. ‘I’ is also a lot more personal than ‘we’. Never ignore a negative comment, no matter how unfair it seems. Keep emotions out of it.

Step 4: Delete as a last resort

Tempting as it may be, avoid deleting negative comments or posts straight away. You have to try to get to the bottom of the problem and fix it, to have a happier customer at the end of the process. The old English adage is true: you can’t be everybody’s darling, but you can get everybody’s respect if you play fair and prove that you care.

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