Handling Complaints on Social Media: Do’s and Don’ts
Self-help gurus are always telling us to block and delete negative comments from the ‘haters’ on social media. But if you’re a business, this doesn’t fly.
Complaints are part of being in business and having customers. Sweeping objections under the proverbial rug will only make them come back louder and more disgruntled. Not to mention, trying to delete any trace of negativity from your page is disingenuous and unprofessional, in an age where brand transparency is more important to customers than ever. Unless the comment is abusive in nature or spam, it is best practice to acknowledge it and respond.
Your response is key; it’s what can take the situation from a potential disaster to an opportunity. Your answer can either further inflame the situation, starting a back-and-forth exchange on a public forum. OR it can create a resolution that converts the person from unsatisfied customer to brand advocate, singing your praises from the rooftop. At the very least, it could have you winning other fans in the process by how you handle yourself.
If handled correctly, objections can actually be a great opportunity to showcase your customer service skills and brand values on a public forum. Your objection handling skills can gain you respect and credibility and position you as a trusted brand.
The best advice we can give you is to keep your cool and adjust your mindset. A complaint is not the end of the world, and it is not a personal attack designed to ruin your day (or your brand). Remember, no business or brand is perfect all the time. People make mistakes, miscommunications happen, Mercury goes into retrograde, and sometimes things are out of your control. Sometimes brands AND customers have bad days. Complaints are GOING to happen. It’s how you deal with them that matters.
1. DON’T DELETE OR BLOCK
Unless it is abusive or contains hate speech, do not delete the comment or block the user! This comes across as dishonest and sneaky. Brands trying to hide skeletons in the closet are not a good look, and the thing about skeletons is that they have a way of coming out!
2. DON’T LOSE YOUR COOL
It’s not the end of the world! Don’t respond emotionally; don’t get defensive, and don’t be passive-aggressive. Remove your ego, and don’t take it as a personal attack. Stay cool, calm, and collected – and respond accordingly. You’ve probably had an issue with a brand before – how would you want to be spoken to in that situation?
3. DON’T GO BACK AND FORTH IN PUBLIC
Don’t have a lengthy exchange on a public forum. Keep your comments to a minimum of 1-2 per party before taking the exchange offline. We’re not trying to hide negative comments, but we also don’t need them taking over the page and overshadowing the good ones! Include your customer service email or phone number in your first response and tell them you’d love to discuss it further (see point #10).
4. DON’T OVER-PROMISE
Don’t make any promises you can’t keep (especially in writing!) in an effort to placate the customer. Saying “I’ll have this sorted for you by the end of the day” sounds great, but if that becomes impossible, you’ve just let someone down twice.
5. DON’T CONDONE OR ALLOW HATE SPEECH OR BULLYING
If your business receives a negative comment that verges on abusive and/or has racial, homophobic, or xenophobic undertones, don’t hesitate to communicate your brand stance on these topics in a professional but firm way. “We’re sorry to hear you had issues with your purchase. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org, and we’ll issue you a refund. However, we have a zero-tolerance policy on hate speech. This comment violates both our company values and the Instagram Community Guidelines, and it may be triggering for some of our valued customers. As a result, we will be removing you from our page.” Then, you have our permission to block the user, and report them to Instagram.
6. DO SAY THANK YOU
Thank the person for taking the time to give you feedback and alerting you to an issue you may not have otherwise known about. “Thank you so much for taking the time to reach out.” “We really appreciate you alerting us to this issue!” “Feedback is so important and valuable to us – it’s how we improve, so thank you for letting us know.”
7. DO APOLOGIZE
If it’s applicable (i.e., a mistake on your part and not just a helpful suggestion), always apologize. “We’re so sorry to hear you had issues with the site yesterday!” “So sorry for the shipping delay and any inconvenience this may have caused!”
8. DO SHOW EMPATHY
Show empathy, and use language that makes the person feel seen and heard. Like, “We hear you!” “That must have been so frustrating!” or “We feel your pain! Waiting for an order is the worst!”
9. DO PROMISE URGENT ACTION
Share an immediate action item and show a sense of urgency. “We are looking into this immediately for you.” Or: “Fixing this for you is an urgent priority.”
10. DO TAKE IT OFFLINE
Transfer the conversation to email or phone. Don’t make it a thinly veiled attempt to remove negative comments from your page; make it clear that you want to expedite the customer’s resolution. “To make this process as quick as possible for you, please email email@example.com, and we’ll lodge your case and get you a resolution ASAP”
Or just “Please DM us your email address so we can get this sorted for you ASAP!”