Social media complaints: turn negatives to positives

by on April 17, 2012

Social Media Complaints Turning Negatives to PositivesLet’s face it, no matter how absolutely rockin’ your biz is, nothing is perfect all the time.   Social media has opened up new doors for how customers complain.  What was once a phone call or a letter has turned into a Facebook post or a tweet.

The scary thing about this for business owners is that everyone can see it! This is probably the biggest fear that small businesses have about getting on social media in the first place. But avoiding social media doesn’t mean that you will reduce your exposure to bad feedback – the word will spread online whether you are there to deal with it or not. So don’t hide!

The key (as it is for all things in life) is to turn a negative into a positive.   Here are some tips to help your business take a complaint on social media and turn it into a chance to shine.

Respond quickly; Don’t delete!

Nip it in the bud before it spreads.  As a busy small business owner, you may not have time to deal with everything the minute it comes up, so just a quick “I’ll look into it” will do the trick.  Customers complaining by social media expect a quicker response than the “old-fashioned” phone call or post letter.  Leaving a complaint post with  no response gives an “I don’t care” impression and is a big invite for venting from other customers who might want to get something off their chest . When you do get the chance to respond, keep it short and sweet; customers can get overwhelmed or further irritated by a long, rambling response.

Also, deleting the post is not the answer.  It looks much better as a business owner to have an interactive conversation happening, than complaints simply being erased! There is no better way to burn a bridge than to delete a comment. And you just may spawn another slew of complaints about your deletion. Denial is never a good road to be on.

Don’t take it personally

Be proactive, not reactive.  It is not about you as a person;  it is about your business or product.  Negative feedback will help you grow (even if it is hard to hear).  A customer who has written you has taken the time to invest in the success of your biz.  Don’t be afraid to own up to your mistakes.   Address the issue and then try to reward or accommodate the customer as best you can.

You just may be surprised what calm, caring and effective action to a complaint can result in. I worked in customer service for years and would get all kinds of irate people in my face. But it never ceased to amazed me how a few kind words and genuine concern for their issue would be enough to stop the tirade in its tracks. I even had one complaint result in a customer that was so impressed with how we dealt with the issue that he vowed to continue buying ONLY our product.

Remember, most of us have been pre-conditioned by large corporations into thinking that we have to be very aggressive to get what we want from a customer service team that in most cases couldn’t care less about the issue. As small business owners, complaints are a great opportunity to offer a personalized service that a huge company simply could not.

Contact the customer privately

If it is a complaint that can’t be dealt with concisely on social media, or you want to give an extra personal touch (recommended!), contact the customer directly by private message or a phone call.  This gives the customer the feeling that you really care and have made the extra effort to contact them.

Also, if you wish to reward the customer with a discount or something complimentary to resolve the issue, you may want to keep this off the public social site.  While I hate to bring this up as I truly believe in the greater good of all people, you may encounter a problem if you are publicly rewarding customers who complain.  It may give others the impression of “rewarding complaining behavior” and create untrue complaints. On the flip side however, demonstrating that you have taken concrete action can also put your business in a positive light – perhaps just leave the specific details of the compensation out of it. Follow your heart on this one and do what feels right.

Show gratitude and follow-up

Nothing ends a social media complaint more nicely than showing gratitude for feedback. A simple “thank you” goes a long way.  It’s also great if you can show other customers how you have adapted or received the advice. If some measure or steps were taken, post this in response to the social media complaint.  Other visitors that come across the complaint will take notice.

Have you ever observed how people often talk about problems and issues they have with businesses? A negative experience is much more likely to be shared than a positive one. And with social media, people can complain instantly and share their gripes for the world to see. However, if you can find a way to resolve the situation, this is what will (hopefully) stick out in people’s minds. See a problem or complaint on social media as a perfect opportunity to turn a negative into a positive, and show how you you care enough about your biz and your customers to rock it!

Additional resource – some of my thoughts (going beyond social media) on good customer service for small businesses.

+ a little bit of fun – Ever worry that you aren’t doing a good enough job dealing with customer complaints? This true story courtesy of Scott Stratten is so wacky as to be almost unbelievable – check it out. As long as you have a modicum of common sense and decency, you should be just fine 🙂

On to you – what have your experiences with complaints on social media been? Any other tips to share? Would love to hear your thoughts!

Comments, likes and tweets are always appreciated! Did I mention that I LOVE your feedback?

Image source: Idea go /



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