In the same way that social media can give a serious boost to your company or brand’s message, this two-way communication channel can also boost how far a piece of negative feedback goes. Gone are the days that a complaint is heard only by the person who picks up the customer service line or opens the emails, and unfortunately, warranted or not, complainers are inevitable. And on social media, it’s out there for the world to see.
But this is not necessarily all bad news. In many cases, a negative comment can be an opportunity to turn a bad experience into an especially great one. This demonstrates your brand’s accountability, an above-and-beyond level of care for customers, and transparency to not only the person with the complaint but to everybody else who may have seen the thread.
In an article by Mashable, Josh Catone identifies four different types of negative feedback. Because not all situations are created equal, the appropriate response will be a function of the type of feedback you received:
Opportunities to Improve Your Business – Straight Problems
Someone has an issue with your product or service and has laid out exactly what went wrong. This type of feedback is negative in the sense that it paints your business in a poor light, but it can be helpful in exposing real problems that need to be dealt with.
Even more helpful is when the comment comes with a suggestion attached. Many customers — including some of your most loyal — will use social media to suggest ways in which you can improve your product or service. While this type of feedback may point out your flaws, and is thus negative, it can be extremely helpful to receive.
Feedback in the form of a straight problem or constructive criticism can be dealt with very similarly. In both cases, a problem, shortcoming, or flaw has been pointed out and addressing it promptly is a must in terms of fixing it and preventing it from happening again, and responding to the complaint.
Start off by thanking the user for providing feedback and bringing the issue to your attention (even if you are annoyed that they chose to do so on a public forum!). Many companies would launch right into an apology, but this extra positive attitude will set a better tone for the rest of the response. Next, make sure your apology comes across as sincere, try to avoid making excuses, and explain that you are taking steps to remedy the situation. Make sure to provide contact information for somebody at your company equipped to make it right and encourage follow-up.
Calm Them Down and Win Them Back – Merited Attack
While the attack itself may not be merited, the issue that catalyzed it does have merit in this type of negative feedback. Essentially, you or your company did something wrong, and someone is angry.
In this case, the user has a legitimate complaint, but they have chosen to express it a bit more aggressively. Naturally, you might feel reluctant to be as friendly and helpful towards them as you would be to somebody who approached you in a calm way, but in this situation, it’s best to “kill them with kindness”.
Again, start off by thanking them for taking the time to provide their feedback. This will not only set a more positive tone for the interaction but might also be pleasantly surprising to them given their angry initiation and encourage them to put down their weapons. Sincerely apologize and if it’s appropriate in the particular situation, relate to them by saying that you would feel the same way. Finally, if you can, offer them something that gives you a chance to win them back. A refund is easy to offer and may make some people happy, but this is like saying, “Here’s your money back so you can spend it elsewhere and get what you want.” But offering another visit (or another product, service, whatever it is) gives you the chance to show them that you can make them happy and deserve to keep their business.
Get Rid of It – Trolling/Spam
The difference between trolling and a merited attack is that trolls have no valid reason for being angry at you. Also in this category are spammers, who will use a negative comment about your product or service (whether true or not) to promote a competing service.
With no legitimate complaint, there is really nothing to address here and you shouldn’t waste time trying to spin it into a positive situation—it won’t work. Trolls and spammers have an ulterior motive, so you can remove this content right away, without compromising your brand’s transparency.
From time to time, you’ll come across a straight problem, constructive criticism, or a merited attack that is littered with language that may be offensive or inappropriate to others on the Page. You should always remove it and then reach out to the user privately to first explain why their comment had to be removed and then try to resolve the situation.
The lesson here is that negative comments on social media are inevitable. But if they are handled the right way, they don’t have to hinder your brand’s success on these platforms.