Managing Criticism and Complaints on Social Media

Everyone knows the best way to grow your business reputation is by positive word of mouth but these days with the growth of social media there is a serious flip side where any complaints you receive across your social media platform can be seriously damaging to your business, especially if not handled effectively and more importantly quickly! Just as you use these platforms to promote and sell then you must also expect your customers and critics to comment publicly in the same arena.

Facebook is estimated to have more than 9 million small business pages and Trip Advisor has 170 million reviews and opinions with 100 comments posted every minute! Regardless of the size of your operation, if you promote your services by social media you will get comments, both good and bad.

Prepare – It becomes imperative to get your processes and responsibilities in place before you start to promote on social media! You should also be consistent and mirror these processes with your existing Customer Service policy.

Next you should classify the comments by type:

1 When you receive straight forward criticisms on your products and services and these will often be very specific.

2 Constructive criticism will often list good points and then most importantly areas where they feel you can improve your business

3 Angry customers will vent when they feel you have failed to meet their expectation or if a product is faulty.

4 And finally ‘Trolling’ which can be the most difficult to handle as there will often be no evidence that the author is actually a customer or is known to your business.

Once you have defined comments by type then you deal with these according to whose remit it will be to manage these to obtain a successful outcome for both your customer and your business.

Speed of response – the amount of comments can appear overwhelming when you are using several methods to promote your business. Thankfully there are apps that help you manage multiple platforms such as Hootsuite that will, with diligent monitoring, allow you to respond within hours rather than days. If you feel the comments need addressing further then offer the customer an offline customer services address to continue the conversation. It is always preferable to take these discussions offline once the initial company response/apology has been posted. A prompt response will show any prospective customers that you take these posts seriously and value both their custom and your business reputation.

If your customer feels very aggrieved then you should always remember the old adage – the customer is ALWAYS right, so by apologizing that your services/goods did not meet their expectation and offering to remedy the issue you are diffusing the situation and on the road to solving their grievance. Again take the dispute offline and work quickly to address their problem.
With all of the above try and give the name of a team member, this keeps the communication personal.

There is always an exception to a rule and this is when you are a victim of ‘trolling’. This phenomenon has become more evident over the last few years as more people are online. The comments are sometimes aimed at well-known figures and celebrities but can also be random in nature. The messages can be provocative, insulting and sometimes threatening and in these instances it is always better to leave well alone. The perpetrators often set up bogus accounts thinking they can remain anonymous.

Always treat these incidences seriously and ensure there is no evidence to merit the attack. If you are satisfied this is unprovoked and without substance then you can remove the comments from your website and if you don’t host the website you can contact the administrators if you believe you have a strong case for having such posts taken down – for instance when the person is not a customer and has no links to your business or services. For serious threatening behavior you can report this to the police.

To summarise, have your complaints process in place, train staff where necessary and make sure this is a daily task. Always respond to any feedback, praise or criticism, on a daily basis. Your business needs this level of well managed interaction to build a positive professional profile and grow its customer base on reputation.

In the consumer credit world, entries on social media complaining of dissatisfaction do not constitute a complaint to the business and does not need to be reported as such. This applies currently to both the rules of the Financial Ombudsman and the Financial Conduct Authority. However, dealing with these messages is very important for the business and any underlying issues would need to be addressed where possible by using the techniques described above.

ALPH Compliance offers a social media monitoring and response service that will assist your business to counteract the effects of unfavorable comments.

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