This month’s post touches on something that has been on my mind a lot recently: social media and customer service. A lot of brands get overly concerned with negativity, especially when it comes to someone posting something of a negative nature on their social media sites. And while I do agree that it’s never a good feeling to find out that somebody had a bad experience with your organization, one should choose to look at the situation as an opportunity. I’ve seen brands not acknowledging customer complaints through either page neglect, or even social media managers deleting negative comments or complaints. Social media is a great tool for customer service; you just have to know how to use it…

So you’ve had someone post something bad about your business. Maybe they had to wait past their appointment time, or didn’t get what they expected from you as an organization. Well, let’s talk about what your next steps are. You don’t want to A. alienate the customer or B. inflame the situation. Your first thought might be to simply delete the post bashing you, your company and your mom (I added that last part) and think “out of sight, out of mind,” however your customers aren’t stupid. They’ll eventually notice that you’ve disregarded their feedback. Remember, just because you deleted a persons post doesn’t mean you’ve deleted their thoughts, future actions or spoken words to their friends.

Most customers that have a poor experience never reach out to the company, instead they write-off the experience, tell their friends and move on. This is a conversation that brands should strive to be a part of. My high school rodeo coach had a saying, a person that has a good experience tells 3 people, but a person that has a bad experience tells 10. I’m paraphrasing here and granted he was talking about people visiting our school for our home rodeo, but I think the sentiment holds true. The reason I think that is because I’m guilty of this as well. I look back on the restaurants where I’ve truly felt taken advantage of, or that my service was horrendous (sushi place on West End, I’m looking at you) and it’s true. I’ve taken to the airwaves of my friends and family rather than confronting the restaurant/business about it, because it’s not only easier but it’s a way to insure my peeps don’t suffer the same fate.

All that being said, are you starting to see why this is a GREAT opportunity for you? You have the ability to actually jump into that conversation and FIX IT. You can show your love for your customers, and help someone that may have not had the best experience. I mean let’s face it, we’re all human and someone is going to leave your establishment not completely satisfied, so let’s take this chance and use it.

My general steps are:

1. Acknowledgement: Acknowledge the person’s complaint. If they had a poor experience, say you’re sorry it happened. Empathy and a genuine “I’m sorry,” can go a long way to making things right.

2. Make it Personal: Give the person a way to reach you (the owner or representative) personally, such as a cell phone number or email address. This shows that you care and you want to talk about their experience, and also has the side benefit of taking the conversation to a more private channel.

3. Follow Up: Post any changes or improvements that have been made in policies as a result of the person’s experience. Such as, if the person is complaining about not getting any response back after sending messages to the reservation email address, you should let the customer know when the issue has been resolved.

4. Express Gratitude: The person had the guts to reach on a highly public forum and tell you about a problem or issue they had with your brand. This deserves recognition and it is also helpful if the person has pointed out a flaw that you hadn’t known about before. A quick “Thank you, you’re awesome” shout-out never hurts.

There are a few caveats to the above procedures. If the person commenting is being offensive (using slurs, profanities etc.) you may have a good reason to delete the comment, or if it’s someone with a grudge against your brand that doesn’t actually have anything to do with their complaint (think ex-employee, etc.), you may also have permission to delete those comments.

I hope this post has helped anyone out there waffling on how to respond to negative reviews. For some interesting statistics regarding twitter customer engagement check out Jay Baer’s post entitled, “70% of Companies Ignore Customer Complaints on Twitter.” – Alyson Dixson