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How to Respond to Customers on Social Media and Handle Negative Reviews

It’s reasonable to assume that most consumers use at least one form of social media on a regular basis. And with the growing role that social media plays in our everyday lives, it’s become natural to contact companies through these channels. Due to the immediate nature of social media, when customers do reach out, they expect a speedy reply. This remains the one aspect of social media where many companies are still failing.

In this article, we’ll cover how to respond to unhappy or dissatisfied customers on social media, as well as how to handle negative customer reviews on sites like Trustpilot, TripAdvisor, and Yelp. But first, let’s discuss the relationship between social media and customer service and how it has been treated by brands and contact centers in the past.

Social Media: Another Siloed Support Channel?

It doesn’t have to be. There are two main risk factors to account for when customers use social media to reach out to you. The first is that social media support can be somewhat nebulous, sometimes living with the marketing department and sometimes with your customer service team. This leaves room for customers to fall through the cracks.

The second factor is that many companies still design their customer experience on a channel-by-channel basis. This is problematic –– customers don’t think in terms of channels but in terms of context. This means that when they have an issue, they’ll communicate it in the most convenient method available to them at that particular moment. This could be Instagram one day and live chat the next.

In addition, when you build your customer support offering on a channel-by-channel basis, this often translates to the customer experience in a negative way. Customers will likely receive inconsistent support across channels, the quality of which will be determined by the channel they choose to reach out to you on. Designing a unified experience that includes all channels from the get-go eliminates this risk, and ensures your customers will always receive a consistent experience.

Social Media Has Changed the Support Landscape

The early 2010s saw an increase in the number of customers who wanted to contact companies through social media. But even so, a decade back, offering social media customer service still felt like a bit of a novelty. Today, that’s all changed. Offering customers support on social media is now par for the course.

Customers want to be able to use social media and messaging apps to interact with their favorite brands in positive ways, as well as for those not-so-fun activities like seeking assistance with delivery or product troubles. And whether you monitor your social media channels for customer questions or not, rest assured that your customers are contacting you there, which can have major consequences for your business. A recent Gartner report showed that not responding to comments on social media can lead to a 15% increase in customer churn. So where do you start?

Responding to Customers on Social Media

When you reply to a customer publicly on social media, you’re not only answering that particular customer but displaying your great customer service (or lack thereof) to all your current and future customers. You should keep two things in mind when formulating your response: Your primary focus should obviously be to help the customer in question, but remember that you’re also sending a subliminal message to anyone else who might come across this comment (and your response). By tending to that customer’s needs, you’re also showing other potential customers that you care about your customers and will make things right if something goes wrong.

Your response might even create value for multiple customers, like when you provide an answer to a frequently asked question, for example. Remember, use customer comments on your social channels as an opportunity to demonstrate how quick you are to respond and how much you value that a customer contacted you. Also, don’t be afraid to over-inform and give the customer some extra context or information. Doing so demonstrates how much you value your customers and your willingness to help.

Even if the content isn’t particularly relevant to others, continue to reply publicly. It still shows transparency between you and your customers, which can help build trust. 

That being said, if any personal information will be required to resolve their question or issue, take the conversation over to a direct message (comment publicly that you’re doing this). When doing so, be sure to reach out privately first (if possible). You don’t want to make someone reach out again if you can avoid it!

Here’s an example of how to take a conversation from a public setting to a private message: “Thank you for reaching out, Samin! I’m sorry to hear you’re having issues with your delivery. I’ve just sent you a private message so we can get this sorted for you right away. Cheers, Laura.”

The millennial pink-hued D2C beauty brand Glossier proactively handles customer inquiries on Instagram by direct messaging customers as soon as they reach out in the comments section with a concern. The “gTEAM” consistently scores 5-star reviews on Trustpilot for their “above-and-beyond” customer service.

In short, by providing speedy, helpful customer service on social media, you can position your brand as truly customer-centric.

How to Respond to Negative Customer Reviews

Customer reviews can be both a blessing and a curse. Great reviews provide social proof and put potential customers checking you out at ease. However, not every review can be five stars, and bad customer reviews are virtually impossible to avoid. Rather than despair, use these reviews as an opportunity to demonstrate your transparency and dedication to customer support. Follow these four steps to turn a bad customer review into a positive for your business:

  1. Respond quickly and publicly – this is a customer who is probably disappointed and/or distressed. Send them an email or private message and then respond on the review platform and let them know you’ve reached out privately.
  2. Take responsibility – even if it’s not your fault.
  3. Apologize – respond with empathy and understanding.
  4. Work out a solution with the customer.

Respond Quickly

If a bad customer review is left for too long without a response, potential customers can lose confidence in your company. After all, 85% of consumers check for negative reviews before committing to a purchase. And if a negative review doesn’t have a public response from your company, you’re demonstrating that you don’t prioritize your customers. Try to respond to all reviews as quickly as possible. Even a very short response where you simply recognize the customer’s position is better than no reply at all.

Take Responsibility

It’s easy to blame a fulfillment center or a distributor for a bad experience. Don’t be tempted to take the easy way out. Your customer didn’t choose your partners, nor do they care where the mistake originated. They put their trust in you, so it’s important that you work on winning this back by owning up and taking full responsibility for any mistakes. You can of course take it up with the party at fault later on, but leave the customer out of that process.

Apologize

“Sorry” really does go a long way. Even when a problem isn’t your fault, you still need to take responsibility and apologize to your customer. At the very least, you can always be sorry that the customer has had a bad experience. No one wants that for their customers.

Work Out a Solution With the Customer

You should always strive to find a satisfactory solution for your customers. Ideally, you should reach out to the customer privately after the review has been posted, as personal information will most likely be required. However, if that’s not possible, when responding, address their comments and encourage them to contact your customer service privately to find a solution that works for both parties.

For the customers that you have already been in contact with privately, whether they reached out on other channels or your team was able to contact them directly, it’s still important to publicly address their review: First, you want to show other customers that you have acknowledged the review and are taking action, otherwise, it can look like you ignored it. Second, the review may raise questions or concerns that others also want to have addressed. Therefore, thoroughly responding to the review can proactively help clear up any outstanding unknowns for other customers.

Just Like You, Your Customers Read the Bad Reviews First

If you’ve ever been to a review site, it’s likely that you skipped the five-star reviews and went straight to the one or two-star customer reviews to see if the company had replied and what that reply was. This tends to heavily influence your willingness to purchase from or deal with a company.

Cherish Negative Customer Reviews

No, really. A bad customer review can actually be a gift when used in the right way. Remember, bad reviews are an opportunity to demonstrate your willingness to take responsibility and find a solution. Your ability to demonstrate how you handle problems can give potential customers more confidence in your company. You are also more likely to turn that customer’s negative experience into a positive one and work towards restoring that customer’s confidence in your company. The service recovery paradox posits that customers are more likely to feel goodwill toward’s your company after a poor experience (as long as it was righted) than if they’d just had an average, yet forgettable, experience.

To Summarize

  1. Respond quickly and publicly to all reviews.
  2. Apologize and own up to mistakes.
  3. If the customer has an issue that others might also experience, posting the solution publicly will create value for you and your customers.

Okay, now go check your review sites! And if you’d like to level up your customer experience and minimize those bad reviews, read our latest report: 3 Ways to Catapult Your Customer Service in 2022.

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Author

Tue Søttrup

Tue Søttrup

Tue brings over 20 years of experience in customer service to his role as VP CX Excellence at Dixa.

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