If your business has a social media presence, at some point you'll have to deal with negative feedback. How you and your business handle it will go a long way toward either creating a new customer or driving a potential sale away.
"Sometimes you have to go the extra mile to keep the customer happy," says social media strategist Kim Beasley, CEO of GrowVisibilityWithMe.com. "No, you're not selling yourself short, and you can turn a negative into a positive."
The following seven tips can help you handle a negative comment swiftly and appropriately, keeping your customers happy and coming back for more.
Address the comment efficiently. Most negative feedback falls into one of four categories: a business error, a misunderstanding, a negative comment or spam. Once you identify the category of the complaint, it will be easier to come up with a positive solution that directly addresses it.
Don't be defensive. When faced with a negative comment, don't consider it a reflection on you personally or on your business. Avoid being defensive when handling the comment. A defensive reaction from you can quickly escalate the issue. It's best to be accommodating, polite and truly listen to the person complaining.
Own up to your mistake. If your business made a mistake, don't hide it. The last thing you want to do is delete the comment or ignore it. Mistakes happen, and the best way to get past them is to deal with them head on. Beasley advises to first recognize the complaint, apologize publicly and then take the conversation off the social media page to resolve the issue.
Offer an incentive. When it comes to handling complaints, Beasley says, "Sometimes you have to pour on a lot of sugar ... to get to that positive. But it's so worth it."
If the person isn't satisfied with your explanation, you can try offering a business service or a discount to calm the situation and, hopefully, convert the complainer to a satisfied customer.
Beasley recounts one example from her business in which a miscommunication led to a missed appointment with a client. She offered the client free services as a way of remedying the problem. The client accepted the work and was satisfied.
Ask for an explanation. If someone leaves a negative comment that doesn't look like an error on the business's part or a misunderstanding, you still need to address the comment.
Beasley suggests asking them, "What do you feel I did wrong?" and handle the situation from there.
You also could ask the customer what would be a positive resolution—again, it comes down to basic customer service. If the customer isn't satisfied with any proposed resolutions, apologize and offer a refund.
Deal with spam too. Sometimes a negative comment is completely without merit or is an attempt by someone associated with a competitor to damage your business's reputation.
If this happens, address it as if it was a legitimate complaint, apologize for the perceived mistake and take the conversation offline to address the issue, advises Drew Larison, social media marketing director for Web Success Agency.
Know what's being said. Even if your business doesn't have a dedicated social media presence, you still need to know what people are saying about your company on other review sites. Beasley says by simply plugging your company's name into Google, you'll be able to see the comments that are out there. Set up alerts through Google and other online tools to keep on top of the comments.
Looking for more customer service tips and advice? Check out these customer service articles.