Dealing with a disgruntled customer and bad publicity on social media can be uncomfortable for everybody involved. After all, nobody enjoys airing their dirty laundry in public. There is always the worry for a business that things may become too negative, escalate and spiral out of control. Don’t worry, these tips on how to deal with bad publicity on social media will help you deal with social media negativity like a pro.
Be prepared for bad publicity on social media
The last thing you want is to be caught in a social media backlash with no defined protocol on how to react. You can avoid this situation by creating and sharing a social media policy document with your staff. The document should provide examples of the tone of voice your brand should use across all social media. Even when not dealing with a complaint, such as when you’re putting a message out or are dealing with happy customers – this does happen too!
It’s a great idea to consider hypothetical complaints your business is likely to receive via social. Then, together as a team, you can craft appropriate responses to each complaint.
Of course, this document will not include the answer to every single complaint you will ever receive. The purpose of creating one is to give staff a greater idea of what the company expects when negative situations arise on social media.
You could even create an editable document – in Google Docs perhaps. Where new complaints and issues can be logged as they happen, along with guidelines on or examples of how staff members should react.
Right or wrong, your business will receive complaints from customers. What’s important is that your company is seen to be proactive and willing to deal with customer issues.
A study by Convince and Convert found that 42% of complainers said they expected a response within 60 minutes.
With this in mind, you need to act quickly. Otherwise, whilst the angry customer awaits your response, they could become disgruntled and develop a negative opinion of your business.
If you’re not 100% sure of the response, at the very least say something to the effect of:
‘Hi, my name is ____. I’m looking into your problem and will get back to you as soon as possible. In the meantime, if you have any questions, you can contact me directly at ____.’
This will tell the recipient that their complaint is being taken seriously, they are being listened to and a real person is chasing it up. You’ll find this will reduce the sender’s incentive to spread anger as you’ve specified a plan of action and are working on a solution.
An example of much-needed social media crisis management is Cynthia Soledad from Kitchen Aid’s almost immediate response to a gaffe made on the company’s Twitter account.
As shown below, an employee tweeted a derogatory message about President Obama from Kitchen Aid’s account, mistakenly believing they had done so from their private account.
Soledad tackled the situation head on, taking to Twitter to offer instant damage control on behalf of Kitchen Aid.
Her frank and honest tweets, combined with her open responses to press enquiries looking for quotes on the matter, helped to shape the public perception of the incident in the brand’s favour.
Adopt a human tone
There is a huge misconception that any negativity received via social media is detrimental to your brand. This simply isn’t true. Jay Baer, author of the customer service handbook Hug Your Haters, discovered in his research that brands seen to be actively answering or dealing with customer complaints via social or online forums actually always succeed in increasing customer advocacy.
Likewise, business growth advisor and Forbes top 10 social media influencer Warren Whitlock believes that most complaints come from people who actually like your company. Rather than looking to cause more problems, they are looking for swift resolutions because they want to remain long-term customers.
Whitlock explains that a customer who complains on social media does so because “they are looking for someone to lead them out of their predicament. They may yell, curse, or scream, but mostly they want to tell their story to somebody who’ll listen”.
So, how do you succeed in offering these customers the service they demand?
Firstly, you need to adopt a more human voice.
An upset customer needs to be treated with empathy and a friendly tone. Offering your real name will improve the situation as the customer realises they aren’t shouting at a faceless brand. But a real person showing concern and a willingness to try and resolve the situation on their behalf.
Make it known to the customer their situation is being listened to and measures are being taken for a resolution.
Sound easy? That’s because it is.
Tailor your responses
Embroiled in a large social storm? It’s a good idea to tailor the responses you give to customers. In the UK in 2013, both Pizza Express and Tesco were in the center of a backlash involving the less than transparent use of halal meat in their products.
Pizza Express dealt with the situation by simply posting a dry, corporate blog post on the matter and ignoring individual complaints.
Tesco, meanwhile, wrote personalized, human messages. They took the customer’s viewpoint on board before offering an explanation on behalf of the company.
Whereas Pizza Express’ efforts seem generic and detached, Tesco’s give an impression of a brand that truly cares about their customers’ opinions.
Also, remember to turn off scheduled posts during any form of crisis. Nothing screams insincerity more than a brand tweeting about products or promotions in the face of large-scale customer discord.
Acknowledge and apologise
A sure-fire way to further aggravate an upset customer is to ignore their complaint entirely. This will enrage the complainer. It will project a terrible impression to other social media users who see your brand turning its back on a customer’s grievance.
In most cases, offering an apology and trying to find a solution to the customer’s complaint will go a long way towards defusing the situation. And possibly earn you a life-long customer. However, the apology must appear to be genuine.
What can exasperate an already angry complainer is a brand offering a ‘non-apology’. For example:
“We are sorry you feel that way about our award-winning service.”
A response like this achieves nothing. It will only further irritate the customer who now feels not only insulted but patronized too.
Keep things visible
Unless a complaint contains violent or offensive language, you should always try to be open and transparent when dealing with social negativity. Every business receives complaints from time to time. A social media user won’t be shocked if they see people complaining about your brand. Despite this, many brands opt to delete or hide complaints; this only adds fuel to the flames of customer discontent.
This method denies brands the opportunity to put things right. It also removes the chance to impress social media observers by visibly attempting to offer an upset customer fantastic customer service and support.
Another flawed tactic employed by brands’ social media teams is to try to encourage the customer to move the debate to a private forum. This negates the benefits of other customers seeing you dealing with a customer’s issue in the public domain. Remember, you can write the most beautiful and sincere private message to a customer but no one will see it. If you offer strong customer service, why not show this off to casual observers?
Social doesn’t have to be scary
Hopefully, it’s now clearer that receiving negative press on social media isn’t as scary as some people think. In fact, if you follow these guidelines, you can actually turn bad press around into a winning situation. So, rather than see a negative comment as something to be feared, view it as an opportunity to show the customer just how much you value them. Whilst simultaneously impressing a raft of onlookers by visibly demonstrating your customer service skills.
Has your brand been on the receiving end of negative social feedback? We’d love to hear what happened and how your brand responded to bad publicity on social media. Feel free to add a comment explaining your story in the box below.