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How to deal with negative comments on social media

Dealing with complaints is one of the less enjoyable aspects of running a business, and fortunately, if you are doing a good job it shouldn’t happen very often.

But from time to time even the most well run businesses receive complaints. As most small businesses don’t have a professionally trained customer service team on hand, chances are if you are in a position of responsibility, you will be the one dealing with negative feedback.

In-person and phone complaints are one thing, but what if someone has complained about your business somewhere highly public like your blog or Facebook page?

The way your business handles social media complaints will not only be judged by the person complaining but by any number of other people who happen to read the comments, so it’s essential that you handle them carefully. Many businesses make the mistake of ignoring negative comments on social media or deleting them altogether but this won’t do your business any favours in terms of credibility. Believe it or not, complaints, if resolved and handled well, can turn disgruntled customers into your biggest advocates and may even enhance your standing with your followers.

When you are working out your marketing plan it’s a good idea to consider not just how you will promote yourself but how you will respond to negative publicity either online or through other means.

This is particularly important if you have different employees who interact and handle complaints over social media. It’s important to take a consistent approach to dealing with negative comments and make sure that everyone who is likely to be in the front lines understands how you want to handle online criticism.

There are a number of steps to successful resolution of online complaints. Here is an example of an approach that you can take to help resolve complaints and potentially turn a negative situation into a positive one:

1. Acknowledge all complaints. Ignoring complaints won’t make them go away and even if you delete them someone will have read them. Annoyed customers have a way of making themselves heard so it’s best to take a head on approach and respond in a timely manner.

2. Show empathy. Apologise where appropriate and demonstrate that you understand how the person making the complaint feels. This can help diffuse any anger.

3. Where possible, take the issue offline. Offer the person complaining the chance to discuss the matter over the phone or email. This can prevent prolonged drawn out conversations and allows for some privacy when resolving the complaint. If the complaint is simple and can be resolved on the spot make sure that whoever is dealing with it has the authority to do so.

4. Make sure you follow up and offer a solution. If you don’t take steps to actually resolve the problem the situation could escalate. Offer something reasonable and appropriate according to the nature of the complaint.

For persistent complaints you may need to take the matter to a higher level but most complaints can usually be resolved fairly easily and you may find that your business gains a positive reputation for having a customer centred, responsive approach.

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Jo Macdermott

Jo Macdermott

<a href="http://au.linkedin.com/in/jomacdermott">Jo Macdermott</a> is the Chief Marketing Consultant at <a href="http://www.nextmarketing.com.au/">Next Marketing</a> in Melbourne. She has 15 years of marketing experience, is a Certified Practising Marketer and is a sought after marketing media commentator. Jo specialises in working with small and medium businesses. Follow her on <a href="https://twitter.com/NextMarketingAU">Twitter here</a>.

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