Managing Negative Social Media Comments

Nick Fitzgerald

In a perfect world, we’d never have an unhappy customer. In this world however, we wish that every complaint was delivered directly to us so that we can best understand and remedy the situation. However, we live in a constantly moving social media world, which means that problems are sometimes communicated through public channels. What to do when a negative comment gets posted on your feed?

Forget the negatives and concentrate on the opportunities

Think of this as an opportunity, the same as you would if a customer spoke to you in person or phoned in a complaint. It’s an opportunity to do a few things: (1) address the situation at hand and turn an unsatisfied customer into a satisfied one, and (2) get insight into ways your internal business procedures may need tweaking. Could this problem be eliminated in the future with a few minor adjustments?

The third opportunity is perhaps the most important: though we all wish that our dirty laundry wasn’t out there for everyone to see, this is an opportunity to show potential customers exactly how wonderful their experience will be with you. Not what you expected to hear? Every business will at one time or another have an unsatisfied customer, and every customer will have an unsatisfying experience with a business or two. This is your opportunity to show your audience that it’s not just about the sale for you, that building trust and meeting expectations are important. In a nutshell, this is your time to shine!

Read carefully and respond with even more care

Take the time to thoroughly understand the problem. If necessary, seek input from employees to truly get clarity on what went wrong. Then, draft out your response. Look closely to see if there is any defensiveness in your answer. If there is, eliminate it. Be vulnerable and concerned only with your customer’s experience. Remember, potential customers are reading this and will take your response into account when deciding whether to do business with you.

Above all, never go negative. This serves no one and can further fuel a fire when a simple, “I’m so sorry to hear you were unsatisfied with your experience” would mollify the situation without placing blame on yourself, your employees or your business.

Document the interaction

Negative social media comments can actually do a lot of good for your business. They may point to a particular source of trouble in your current processes. Taking the time to go over procedures or discuss the failing might help you to strengthen your entire customer service regime. They can also be useful for future training, as a way of establishing procedure over how complaints are handled company-wide.

By the way, this pertains to positive feedback too! Screenshot glowing reviews or comments and keep them in your kudos file. This is a reminder of all the things you’re doing right. Plus, it’s a great way to recognize other employees’ efforts and boost morale at a staff meeting by calling attention to their good work!

Respond in a timely manner

This is an example of when you get to shape a story. Left on their own, comments can snowball into a larger discussion and invite additional commentary. Instead, douse the fire with your own attention. If you need to research further before handling the matter, let that be known: “I’m so sorry to hear you had an unsatisfactory experience. We’re looking into the matter right now to find the best solution to offer you.” This way, the customer feels that they’ve been heard and it also caps off the comments section, letting the public know that the matter is being addressed.

Always respond publicly before taking the conversation back to safer, one-on-one territory. Even if both you and the unhappy customer find peace within the situation, this is a wonderful time to let potential customers know that their experience will matter to you, before, during and after the point of sale.

Be transparent

It might sting, but it’s important to let those comments sit there, along with their resolution or at the very least, your response. People will notice if a negative comment is deleted and it can be construed as dishonesty. Things go wrong and people aren’t always happy, but the important part of the entire interaction is displaying your commitment to customer service and satisfaction.

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