At Local Search Masters, we provide social media management services to clients of various sizes in a number of different industries.  Part of the work that goes into these services includes monitoring these social media accounts for positive and negative feedback from friends and followers and responding appropriately.  Recently, I had to deal with a situation involving an unhappy customer who had made his discontent known on one of our client’s Facebook pages.  It provided me with a nice refresher course on how to react in a social media PR crisis.  Here are the basics:

  1. Address the comment as quickly as possible.  In addition to the fact that a quick response makes your company appear more competent and more responsive to your customers, you also don’t want to allow the bad vibes to fester.  The original poster might comment again out of anger over your lack of response.  Additionally, others who have only experienced mild dissatisfaction and have kept quiet until now might be encouraged to pile on and voice their problems publicly, too.
  2. Be sincerely apologetic without making excuses.  Excuses are a way of deflecting blame, and making them will signal to the customer that you’re more concerned with your image than you are with meeting their needs.  Don’t make it all about you.  Also, never imply that the customer is at fault, even if they are.
  3. Reach out to the disgruntled customer. If the person is so upset that they’ve taken to social media to execute their vendetta against your brand, chances are you’ve done something wrong.  It’s quite appropriate for you to offer something in exchange for the problems that you’ve allegedly caused; refunds and free products and services are common remedies.
  4. Ask permission before taking out the trash.  When people talk badly about our brands online, we tend to panic and have a natural impulse to delete the comment.  If the comment is slanderous or clearly put on your Facebook by a fake troll account (a fine line to walk, to be sure), then go ahead and delete it.  However, for legitimate claims of wrongdoing, you should not instantly delete the comment.  Later on, once you’ve addressed the issue with the customer and left him or her adequately compensated, you should ask his or her permission to take it down from your profile.

Remember, these little social media emergencies aren’t the end of the world.  Take the opportunity to show your follower base that maintaining a certain standard of quality in your products and services is important to you, as are the opinions and feelings of your customers.  If handled properly, you can actually turn these snafus into positive PR.  Make amends with and compensate the person (if they have a legitimate complaint) and turn a malcontent into a proud brand advocate by showing that you care.  You’ll increase the lifetime value of your customer by making it more likely that he or she will continue to make purchases with your company, and, if you’ve done a truly exceptional damage control job, you’ll give the customer a great story to tell his or her friends (AKA, new customers).

Looking for more advice? Check out these great posts!

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