Negative review: How should ecommerce brands handle online complaints?

Posted By Axonn on 4th July 2017

No matter how much you might go out of your way to deliver the best possible customer service, as well as the best products, you can’t please everyone.

Untitled design (3) - Edited.jpg


Before the internet became the thing that runs our lives, it may not have been as big an issue to receive a customer complaint as it is today.

After all, how vocal could a person get and how much impact could they have when complaining without a way to broadcast their displeasure? Nowadays, one little complaint on social media can do some serious damage, especially if a brand doesn’t handle it properly.

More and more people are heading to Facebook and Twitter to complain about products and services rather than using brands’ other contact options. The common thinking seems to be why should you email or call, when typing an update on social is so much quicker?

Not only does this mean that brands need to be able to respond to complaints faster, they also need to do so in the best possible way, as it isn’t just the original customer who will be judging how they handle it.

With tweets and Facebook posts on brand pages being public, every follower, fan and potential customer can see complaints, with the steps that brands take to address them having a huge influence on customer advocacy and brand reputation.

This is why it pays to handle any complaints received over social media quickly, completely and in the way that best reflects the value of your brand. We’ve got just the tips to help you do this.

Answer every customer

What’s more frustrating than having something go wrong that you need to complain about? Not getting a response.

There is a high chance that a customer who doesn’t get a response will post another negative comment. Similarly, those who don’t get a timely response are likely to post again to ask why, especially as our research shows almost half (49.8 per cent) of customers who post a complaint online expect to get an answer within an hour.

If a customer keeps posting about why they are not happy – likely getting more irate as they go on – a greater number of people will see their negative comments, meaning they are influencing more potential customers.

This is why you need to monitor posts and comments on social media and respond in good time. Even if your response is to send an email or call the customer service line, a prompt answer is just as important as one that deals with the complaint.

Maintain brand voice

It can be hard to stay calm when dealing with customer complaints, especially as social media can bring out the worst in people. However, it is vital that you remain professional and keep responses in-line with both company policy and brand voice.

Answering a complaint in an unprofessional way or with a response that doesn’t fit with the brand can create a lot of backlash. While some brands have been successful with responding in a humorous way, you need to tread carefully, as this isn’t the best option for all complaints.


Screenshot 2017-05-30 at 10.35.07 - Display 2 - Edited (1).png

Assess what information you need to reply with and the best way to do this in order to seem apologetic and genuine, as well as sounding like other brand communication. This may be difficult to do if the customer is still unhappy, but slipping up with what you say and how you say it will give you an even bigger headache.

Don’t hit the delete button

If you haven’t got the time to deal with a complaint straight away, simply put that in a reply and aim to get back to the customer as quickly as possible. You should never try to pretend the complaint hasn’t happened by deleting posts or comments, as this can cause even more problems.

It could ultimately end up that the fact you’ve deleted a post results in a more negative view of your brand that the complaint did in the first place. You send the wrong message by deleting complaints, suggesting that customer feedback doesn’t matter, which is not the message ecommerce brands – or any brand – wants to be sending.

Deleting comments only serves to fan the flames of a complaint, so don’t do it, no matter how tempting it might be.

Be consistent

The old adage ‘the customer is always right’ couldn’t be more wrong. You shouldn’t bow to every complaint made against your brand, as this can result in inconsistent service, which could upset other customers.

If a customer is demanding something that goes against your company’s guidelines, you can’t give in, especially if you haven’t done so for similar complaints in the past. It is important not to let the customer dictate how a complaint is dealt with, sticking with the same rules for each complaint you receive.

Giving into a customer demand that goes against your brand’s guidelines can see other demands escalate, so it is important to stick to strict guidelines. These should be available to every member of your social media team so they have a playbook to follow that doesn’t differ from person to person.

Use Google Alerts 

It’s easy enough to keep an eye on posts that are on your brand page or that you are tagged in, but what about those that are posted to social but that you have no way of seeing? These can be just as damaging as direct or tagged posts when it comes to reputation and customer advocacy, so they also need to be addressed.

To do this, set up Google Alerts to alert you of mentions of your brand across social media or on blogs. You can choose a number of keywords to get notified about, as well as choose to receive them immediately or a couple of times a week.

Not only will Alerts help you watch out for any untagged complaints so you can deal with them, helping people to see how great your customer service is, it also notifies you of positive content that could be shareable. Both of these are beneficial to your brand so it really does pay off in the end.

Make the most of social listening

While Google Alerts will let you know if your brand pops up in some comments, social listening helps you to get a fuller picture of what is being said and the sentiment behind all online discussions. It does this through giving a full measure of your brand’s online reputation, helping you to better tailor responses to complaints and positive comments, as well as plan marketing campaigns.

When it comes to crisis control, social listening can be one of the best tools to help you mitigate challenges to your brand’s reputation. It enables you to see what is being said and how people are reacting to the issue – such as how many people are sharing negative posts or reacting to them. Not only does this mean you can respond to more people to try and better deal with online complaints, it also ensures you have a fuller idea of the effect they are having.

Constantly monitoring brand mentions and interactions allows you to adjust your brand’s tone of voice, complaints procedure and other online strategies. On top of this, it gives you an overall idea of how well you are performing, enabling you to better create goals and measure your success, providing you with a greater range of insights that can result in more successful marketing in the long and short run.

Social listening is one of the best ways brands can pinpoint negative comments, address them and assess the fallout, giving you the complete picture.

[cta-button url=w“” text=Sign up for email updates]