The internet is not always the nicest place. People openly attack others online, get into pointless arguments about whether a movie is good or not, and voice opinions that are better left private.
For a business, social media can be a double edge sword. It gives your business a chance to connect and interact regularly with followers and customers. That means better retention and more sales. But at the same time, social media allows unhappy consumers to openly complain about your business for the whole world to see.
Understandable complaints on social media aren’t that bad. Somebody got food poisoning at a restaurant or their product broke within the first day and are voicing their displeasure online. A smart social media manager will respond publicly and calmly to the complaint and resolve it.
But not every online complaint is understandable or reasonable. The internet is filled with a variety of people, not all of them polite or moral. Some might be trying to get free stuff by blackmailing your company, others want far too much compensation for their troubles, and some just are confused about which company they are complaining to. For these kinds of people, here are some tips to properly respond to them to prevent a fallout online.
Before You Respond, Be In a Good Mood
It’s very easy to get defensive when somebody is criticizing your business, and it’s even easier when the person is being absolutely ridiculous. It can feel like a personal attack, that it’s not just the business that failed them, you failed them. If you go into interacting with them while in a bad mood, it’s going to show. People can tell when a person is being calm in their response versus aggravated, even if they tried to write professionally.
Before you start responding, make sure you are in a good mood. If you are in charge of the company’s social media, that means you need to wake up every day in a good mood. If you aren’t feeling particularly happy, take some time for yourself. Talk to a coworker, grab a cup of coffee, go for a walk, do something to help you feel good. Then, once you are calm and feeling positive, dive head first into addressing the issue. While working on it, you might start to feel depressed or frustrated, which means taking another little break to get your morale back up.
Identify Why They Are Mad, Help Them Feel Better
Sometimes, people go to complain on social media just because they are having a bad day and your business is just a victim of it. What your business did wasn’t worth the actual complaint, but maybe a small mistake was “the straw that broke the camel’s back” of their day. It’s like you’re having a terrible day and you go to a fast food place to try and cheer yourself up and they mix up your order. Normally, it wouldn’t be enough to make a fuss about, but since your day has been so terrible, you get incredibly angry at the fast food place.
Identify why the person is mad. Does it seem like they are just having a bad day and you’re the victim of a drive-by complaining? Did your business actually screw up big time? Try to understand the person and why they are acting out.
Then, do something to appease them. Try to make them happy. If the mistake is something actually huge, get working on making amends to them. But it’s quite possible it’s a tiny mistake that really doesn’t matter. In this case, apologize, ask to find a way to fix it for them, and try to do something to make their day better. Doing something small like offering to send them a five dollar gift card to Starbucks or just sending them a gif of a happy puppy wishing them to have a better day can help out a bunch. Show you care that they are having a bad day and want to help them feel better.
The Customer Looking To Take Advantage of You
Whether you’ve worked in the restaurant business or not, it’s likely you’ve heard this story. A diner sits down and orders a meal. They proceed to eat the entire meal, down to the crumbs, and then when the bill comes, they complain and refuse to pay. They might say something like “The food was disgusting, the meat was overcooked, the mashed potatoes were lumpy.” The customer demands to see a manager and refuses to pay for the meal they devoured.
These kinds of people exist on social media too. They have unreasonable demands for a business and will complain loudly to get their way. With these kinds of people, you can’t do anything to appease them. That only rewards their bad behavior and attracts more of their kind.
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A good way to identify whether your complainer matches this profile is to delve into their social media profile. Do they commonly complain online about businesses? Are they even a customer of yours? If they are, how recently did they purchase from you? Are their demands an over exaggeration of what they would actually get?
To deal with these kinds of customers, find the truth and calmly explain it to both the complainer and the world to see. Direct them to contact your customer support (give them a heads up about the person) and let them know that your company will help if possible. Do this, and if other people see the complaint, they’ll likely see that person was being unreasonable.
A Case of Mistaken Identity
There are tons of businesses with very similar names. Look at businesses with the name “Sprout.” Go ahead, Google it. For me, the first page of results included businesses that specialize in: financials, social media software, marketing, local farmer’s market, a local preschool, online organic food business, and a children’s boutique.
It’s quite possible for people to mistake your business for another if you have similar names, Twitter handles, or maybe the other business doesn’t have a social media presence. That means you get the heat for somebody else’s mistake.
First, try to figure out who they are complaining about. Sometimes, that’s easy if they mean a product or reason behind the complaint, but you might have to do some digging. Ask what you did wrong and get more information. Then, use that information to point them in the right direction. Be understanding, explain what kind of business you are, and wish them well. Don’t make them feel bad about it, be helpful and understanding.
The worst thing you could do in this scenario is ignoring them. Even if the person realizes they attacked the wrong business, if you ignore them, it might seem like you are aloof or rude. That could have serious ramifications on how people view your customer support or branding.
Building a Strong Community
If you have a strong social community around your business, you can have support from others in response to a particularly nasty or unfair social media review. If you’ve created super fans for your business that actively interact with the business, they’ll be more than happy to respond to negative messages with their experiences.
That way, if a new customer is checking out your social media, sees the negative review or comment, and then next sees a host of positive comments in response, they won’t believe the negativity.
Building a strong social community around your business isn’t easy nor something that can be done quickly. You really need to understand who your customers are and what they want from you on social media. It’s not enough you do a good job as a business, you need to kill it on social media. That means actively engaging with customers, providing entertaining and useful content, and being a voice for good in your online communities.
As particularly negative or unfair social media complaints crop up, it’s important to stay calm and collected. Remember that the person on the other end has their own life, with their own problems, so do whatever you can to help them. If it feels like they are trying to take advantage of your business though, then simply explain you can’t help them and tell the world why. It might be tempting to just block negative comments and move on but don’t. At least try to address every complaint that comes your way and makes sure your business comes away looking good.