Saturday we sat down for several hours with a current client of ours discussing their plans for their business. This included their website, search engines and social media. Each topic was deep and insightful to say the least. One of the topics that came up that we felt could benefit everyone was how to properly handle negative comments or feedback from customers in social media. Although this will not cover everything we talked about it will be a great foundation for any company whether you are just starting in the realm of social media or have been at it for some time.
Many companies not yet on social media may be avoiding it to avoid such negative criticism. The problem with this approach is that you have no voice to counter the negative criticism. With many social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, Yelp, Urban Spoon, Google+ to name just a few you will find that people are already talking about your brand. These online conversations can be positive or negative and if you avoid being online the only person you are hurting is yourself (aka your brand). With so many places to cover for feedback the question is where to dedicate your efforts.
Many who see negative comments or feedback want to immediately delete those comments from existence. Although this can work to some degree what you are doing is showing the person that made the comment that you don't except criticism, are not open to change, will aggravate the commenter, or move the conversation elsewhere that you might not be aware of which could hurt your brand. By deleting things on the internet is an illusion anyway, and will bring into question your integrity to not only the complainer, but all your followers. Do block users who abuse the site, and remove inappropriate comments (i.e., racist, derogatory, pornographic, etc.), ones that are too far off-topic. By taking the time to take care of each negative comment or feedback you are making your brand better and showing to the customer that their opinion truly does matter to you.
Firstly, according to a study done by The Retail Consumer Report in 2012 states that 68% of consumers that posted a complaint or a negative comment on social networking sites about their negative experiences, got a response from the retailer.
From that, 18% of them turned into loyal customers and bought even more. If you think that is all, you're wrong. 33% of them turned around and posted a positive review after that, and 34% of them deleted their negative review that they had left earlier.
This shows that, if handled properly, negative feedback can indeed be a powerful tool to gain loyalty from your customers and enhancing, not only their experience with your brand, but also the experience of other customers who view your brand's online persona – since they would be reading some of the positive reviews that the returning 33% had posted. One key factor we always note is you cannot make everyone happy. We all wish this was not the case but we can't. As such, we can work on making those that are unhappy into happier customers. In doing so we are also showing other customers, as well as potential customers, that we truly do care about them and genuinely want to see them have a positive experience with our brand.
Based on that our core customers are, and always will be, small to mid-size businesses gaining loyal customers is extremely important! With that the question is, how you should respond to negative feedbacks?
- Respond as fast as possible or when you can: According to a study (yes another one) 25% of customers expect a response within an hour, and 6% expect a response within 10 minutes. Having said that, how fast you respond depends upon the industry your business is in. The longer you leave a negative comment without responding to it the worse that comment becomes as it shows you don't care.
- Respond offline: Many times a comment needs to be addressed offline (e.g. a phone call, email, etc.) from the social media network. When you have to do this don't forget to answer the call online as well. Post on the negative comment or feedback that you appreciate their information and you will be getting in contact with them shortly. With shortly being don't wait. Pick up the phone, send that email, etc. to them so that you can diffuse the situation and turn this negative into a positive. By taking the information offline you will also learn a lot more details and facts from the customer of the situation and circumstances for their comment. If you have no way of getting a hold of the person, being it is anonymous, you can always put in your reply that you would like to learn more from them and to "please e-mail me at XYZ or call at XYZ to discuss the manner further".
- Be Patient and Understanding: In dealing with upset customers, you must remember that you are closer to your industry, products and services than they are. What may seem like basic, common knowledge to you is often foreign to the end user. Take a step back and put yourself in your customer's shoes. This can go a long way in understanding why he or she is frustrated. It may not be your company's fault that the customer is upset. Whether or not the fault lies on your end, a simple apology will go a long way in keeping the customer's business. Instead of trying to figure out where the blame lies, turn upset fans into loyal customers by making their experience better.
- Don't follow the script all the time: I just hate it when social media managers or the person behind the brands follows a script. If you don't know, most customer representative online or offline have a script to follow depending on what customers say on social media sites. Follow a guideline and not a script. Be different, honest and sincere in how you respond to each comment or criticism. Be HUMAN.
- Give customers more information: I remember seeking help via social media and I receive a "we're sorry about your experience" response without any help and the brand gave the same response to others as well. Remember don't follow the script earlier? Despite them responding quickly, they did not answer my question or solve my problems, and I had to comment again. Having said that, it's not only important to respond quick but also how you respond that matters.
- Have a separate email or contact: It's frustrating when you tried emailing customer service without any help, and when you reach out to them via Facebook or any other social networking sites, they tend to give you the same exact email contact. In my opinion, the better choice would be to have a separate email address for Facebook IF email is need. Another alternative would be to reach out to them by sending them a message on Facebook so that you can get more information.
- Be honest and transparent: Don't try to hide or give any excuses; instead be upfront with your customers and apologize and admit that it's your fault if it is. Having said so, if you don't have an explanation, apologize to your customers and let them know that you will work on correcting the problem so that it will never happen again.
- Don't take it personally: Last but not least, don't take negative comments as personal attacks. Instead, take them as feedbacks as you're able to see things from a customer's point of view. However, if you feel that the customers could be wrong, you could try to defend yourself in a polite way.
- Thank Them! It may seem counterintuitive to thank someone for a negative comment. People want to know that there words have been heard, that actions are being taken to correct the situation and that you truly do appreciate them.
- Track your complaints: Although not part of handling a problem is keep track of a negative comment or feedback. This allows you to see trends that may need more attention than you might realize.
The customer is taking extra effort out of their day to inform you of something that is concerning them. This shows ultimately that they care enough to let you know. These are the perfect customers to help you build your brand. Turn this feedback into the silver lining that it is and thank them and turn them into an ambassador of your brand.
We have talked a lot about how to handle criticism in this post. One key item that we didn't cover, and please don't neglect them, are the positive comments and feedback that people post. A "thank you" can go a long way to further strengthening your brand and let those that follow you know that there information is important to you.
Part of what JM2 Webdesigners does, and for customers, is assist them in their Digital Marketing. Many companies do it all for you so that you don't have to worry about anything as the internet is scary. We don't believe in this philosophy as we want you to be the best that you can be while using the expertise that we can provide to you! This could seem counterproductive for us to make a ton of money but we believe that you are the best ambassador of your brand and it is our goal to help make your brand the best it can be. Although we do a great job at it we cannot answer every comment, positive or negative, a customer posts onto social media. We believe in a lifelong working relationship where we continue to help educate you, make certain that your brands online presence is handled professionally, and that no stone is left unturned to help build your brand. To learn more about what we can offer please look around our website or contact us through our online form and we will get back with you.