The Opportunity of a Negative Post: A Guide for Social Media Community Managers
First off, it’s not if, it’s when. And, second, don’t look at a negative post as if you’ve been exposed as a horrible company. Look at it as an opportunity. This person has taken the time to voice his or her concern directly with you (most people just hold a grudge or complain in a manner where you do not have the chance to reply). You get to publicly solve this person’s problem which will not only likely win this person over; it will also show everyone else your dedication to customer service through your actions, not just your words. That being said – I realize you won’t always be able to solve the issue or make the person happy. Fortunately, for most people, the fact that you’ve made the effort will go a long way.
The key to dealing with negative social media posts (whether they be a Facebook page post, tweet or comment on a blog site) is to have a plan in place beforehand. Community Managers should follow these steps to prepare yourself to handle negative social media feedback.
1. Determine a point person for each issue type
Work with customer service, legal, HR, corporate communications and any other necessary functions to determine a point person for each. And find one person. When the responsibility falls on many often times no one takes responsibility.
2. Develop standard responses
Work with each person to determine some standard responses (for instance, HR would have one for someone asking why they didn’t get hired) and a service level agreement (in other words, how fast they commit to responding). You’ll still want to customize these standards responses to best fit each particular situation and because, well, you don’t want to sound like a robot. Having these standard responses will allow you to act much faster. You will find a lot of the back-and-forth on the message can be worked out in advance when you brainstorm common issues and how you would respond.
3. Respond quickly
My best practice for a clear customer service issue is to always respond within the hour of the post if it is during normal business hours, if not respond first thing the next business morning. My respond I don’t mean necessarily solving the issue. Just a response that states “we’ve seen your post and we are on it.”
Often times just responding, and doing so quickly, will make the person feel better even if you cannot solve the issue. You would be surprised how often people just want to be heard by a company.
4. Respond consistently
Be sure to be consistent in how you respond to posts (this is where a quick “we’re on it” response comes in handy) as people will notice if most posts get a comment back within an hour and their posts is sitting there for much longer with no acknowledgement. This also holds true for how you deal with responding during non-business hours. Don’t respond during non-business hours unless you plan to have this as part of your normal social media monitoring plan. By sometimes responding at night or on weekends you are teaching people that you are available then to respond. Some companies, such as Virgin Airlines, have a formal standard with their Facebook page that they will not respond if it is outside of business hours as they do not want to set the expectation for the customer that they are available then.
One more point here – if you publicly offer someone a coupon or discount as part of your solution be prepared to do it for others. In fact, you may find yourself getting more complaints if you set the expectation that complaining will get the person a coupon.
5. Take it offline
If you need more information or the customer is clearly angry / frustrated – take the conversation offline by providing an email address where the person can tell the full story and provide their contact information to you. This removes the potential for ugly back-and-forth comments in a highly public social site.
6. Have custom email addresses
I recommend having a firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com and utilizing any existing customer service oriented email addresses. This is much better than providing an individual’s email address as you may not want to make that public and employees change employers all the time. This will allow you to better track issues and resolutions. These generic emails can also serve as a group email to reach several people at once.
7. Post the resolution
Once the problem has been resolved post the resolution on the site. This will not only show your dedication to customer service (and probably get you a “thank you” from the person who complained) in many cases it may solve questions that other people were already having. In essence, your Facebook page or social site can become a Q & A of sorts for common issues.
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