Dealing with negative comments from people on Twitter is much the same as dealing with customer complaints at your store or office. If a customer was in front of you, you wouldn’t leave him standing there while you did a bunch of other stuff, give them a scripted reply (I hope) or completely blow him off. The potential for confrontation would motivate you to action. Now consider this, while your actions in person may lead that customer to discuss his interaction to a small group of friends and family (which can be subjective), an online interaction not only gets reported to that group but also has the potential to be seen by the entire group of followers that you’ve worked hard to attain- potentially thousands of people. What you do when someone complains on Twitter is as important as any decision you make from a marketing standpoint.
Dealing with the public in any capacity is going to open you up for scrutiny. However, how you handle criticism, especially in the blindingly rapid Internet age, will determine whether that criticism is par for the course or a permanent bruise on your brand story. Everyone should have a strategy for dealing with negative comments on Twitter (or any social media), here are six tips that we use for both our clients’ and our own social platforms:
- See the situation from the customer’s point of view: When a customer purchases your product or service they are looking for flawless execution. They feel that their money has earned that. Whether fairly or not, anything short of that is a reason to complain. And for some, they aren’t venting unless they are using the Twitter bullhorn to tell the world. While business owners know that there are a myriad of processes in place between them and getting a product or service in the hands of the consumer, she doesn’t care, she just wants what she paid for. And honestly, you would too. So when you receive a negative tweet, analyze it quickly, put yourself in the customer’s shoes and let that inform your decisions going forward.
- Respond honestly, set the tone: While you didn’t initiate the conversation, you have to move quickly and set the tone for how the conversation will move forward. Always be courteous and honest in addressing customer concerns. You don’t want to make excuses, but you do want to establish that you hear the concern and that you are working to immediately and diligently to alleviate it. If you have an immediate solution, that’s great, but chances are you don’t. They need to know that. If the issue is detailed or technical in nature, offer to answer the question offline. Sometimes this defuses complainers. They may not have want a perceived confrontation, just simply to vent. Even if the issue is not complicated, it’s a good practice to offer to speak with the customer offline about the issue.
- Say “I’m sorry”: To add to the point about being honest, saying I’m sorry (as long as it’s not followed with a bunch of excuses), is a powerful tool for diffusing negative comments. Even if you are certain that the issue is not your fault, the customer won’t likely see it that way. The only time an apology would not be appropriate is if it would negatively affect the perception of your product, service or brand. However, that’s a rarity, just apologize.
- Offer a solution: Some people take their complaints to Twitter to get attention, some to vent, but some customers want solutions. You’re in the business of solving some sort of pain for your consumers. When that pain is your product or service, your job is to fix it. Make sure that you study their comments closely, communicate thoroughly with customers and, based on the conversation, offer an appropriate solution. It’s also a good idea to compensate them in an appropriate way for their trouble. Make sure that you let your followers know what the solution is and that the problem is solved. If the complaint is public, the response and solution might as well be public as well.
- Remove inflammatory comments: The only time that it is justifiable to remove negative comments is if they are offensive to you, your employees or other customers. No one likes a bully and you can’t allow them to exist on your social media channels. Inflammatory comments can hurt the culture within and the perception around your brand. Also, racist, sexist, derogatory, pornographic comments should be removed immediately.
- Continuously monitor social platforms: You are not always going to be present when something negative is said about your company. That’s why tools must be place so that your social channels are continuously being monitored for commentary about your company and its products and services. The simplest way to do this is to use Google Alerts or TweetDeck.
Dealing with negative comments on Twitter comes down to good customer service acumen. When in-person customers have an issue you are forced to quickly, but thoughtfully deal with it. The same holds true for issues in social media. The person in charge of Twitter at your company must be able to analyze the issue quickly and act appropriately. Remember, the world and your customers are watching, how you handle a negative comment is an opportunity to show the best aspects of your company. Don’t let it be something that sinks your brand.