Negative review: How should ecommerce brands handle social media complaints?

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

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 you don’t handle it properly.

Social media: the future of customer service?

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 I email or call, when typing an update on social is so much quicker?

Research has shown:

  • One billion messages are exchanged between customers and businesses every month on Facebook Messenger alone
  • 64 per cent of people would rather send a message than call a business
  • Digital customer service interactions will increase by 40 per cent in 2021, according to Forrester

The growth of digital customer service means brands must be able to handle social media complaints quickly and competently. After all, it isn’t just the original customer who will be judging how you manage the situation.

With tweets and Facebook posts on brand pages being public, every follower, fan and potential customer can see complaints. The steps you take to address them could have a huge influence on customer advocacy and brand reputation.

As Sunil Gupta, co-chair of the Driving Digital Strategy executive programme at Harvard Business School, has noted: “Smart consumers know that if they contact a company on Twitter or Facebook, they’ll get a better response and a faster response than they will if they call customer service. No one else knows when you call a company with a problem, but on social media a lot of people see the complaint, which is exactly what companies are worried about. It certainly is a way to get a company’s attention.”

It pays to handle social media complaints quickly, comprehensively and in a way that 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 to your complaint.

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.

If a customer keeps posting about why they’re not happy – likely getting more irate as they go on – a greater number of people will see their negative comments, meaning they’re 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 ask the person 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’s 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 your brand can create a lot of backlash. While some brands have been successful with adopting a lighthearted or cheeky tone on social media – Innocent Drinks and Old Spice, for example – this might not be the best way to deal with complaints.

Assess what information you need to reply with and the best way to be genuinely apologetic, while staying in line with other brand communications. 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.

Deleting a post could create a more negative view of your brand than 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 brands – want 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.

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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’s important not to let the customer dictate how a complaint is dealt with and to stick with the same rules for each complaint you receive.

Use Google Alerts 

It’s easy enough to keep an eye on posts that are on your brand page or that you’re 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 inform you of mentions of your brand across social media or blogs. You can choose a number of keywords to be notified about, with the option to receive updates 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, but they also notify 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, but it also ensures you have a fuller idea of the effect they’re 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’re performing, enabling you to set goals and measure your success. A greater range of insights can result in more successful marketing in the short and long term.

If you’re keen to learn more about social media management, or any other aspect of content marketing that could benefit your business, Axonn can help.

For more insights and advice on how to optimise your social media output and other aspects of your content marketing strategy, get in touch with us.