Over the last few years the number channels that allow our customers the opportunity to give us feedback has increased, traditional methods of providing feedback to businesses (phone, letter, face to face) have fallen by the wayside with most feedback now being received electronically.

Social media has become the predominant method of feedback, however where once feedback was received in private, social media has given our customers the ability to gain an audience with their complaint and then sit back and watch how businesses respond. This audience also has the ability to comment with their own experiences or views, sometimes in defence of the business or sometimes adding to the negativity that is being generated.

Seeing your business being criticised on social media can be horrible, the business that you have worked hard to make successful, made sacrifices for, that you are passionate about, being picked apart and your failings (whether real or imagined) published for all to see and comment on is hard. However, how you respond to this can either win or lose customers.

Remember – The Customer is not always right, it’s how you respond is the key.

Recently a Guernsey Business received some negative feedback on Facebook regarding a customers’ experience, knowing the business concerned, this feedback seemed a little unjust and out of character with the usually fantastic service they normally give.

Within a few minutes of the original post there were a number of negative comments in support of the original poster, more replies were received over the next few hours until the business owner responded.

The initial response, an apology and request for the customer to call to discuss further was great. But the customer then went on to post more negative remarks, at this point, the wisest thing would have been to repeat the request for the customer to contact the owner and then leave.

However the business then broke one of the golden rules of social media feedback, “Don’t make the customer look wrong” and posted some pictures that proved the customer wasn’t being totally honest with their complaint.  The exchange then degenerated into an argument, which the business was never going to win. Thankfully the owner had second thoughts and removed the pictures and following comments and the post lost momentum, but for a brief period of internet history this post was trending and gaining views.

So, how best to handle negative feedback on social media?

There’s a few golden rules to follow.

Golden rule #1 – Take it offline. Where possible get the conversation offline, preferably face to face or on the phone. The discussion will be private and not visible to the rest of the world.

Golden rule #2 – Don’t make the customer look wrong – If a customer states something as fact in an online post, don’t try and correct them or post pictures proving them wrong, this will only end up in an online argument.

Golden rule #3 – Respond positively – Always thank a customer for providing feedback, whether positive or negative, they’ve taken time to let you know about their experience, let them know that you appreciate it.

Golden rule #4 – Only use humour if it’s appropriate – We’ve all seen those amazing humorous responses to social media complaints, but it’s a fine line, if the tone of the customer feedback is humorous, then you can respond likewise, but be careful. What’s funny to you, might not be funny to them. If in doubt. Keep it serious but light.

Golden rule #5 – Be natural – Don’t trot out a standard response to every customer, this will feel like the customer is communicating with an unemotional machine. Customers want to feel a connection even on social media.

Golden rule #6 – Empathise – Your response should help you connect with the customer to show that you understand how they are feeling. “I hate it when that happens…..” is a great phrase.

Golden rule #7 – Act – If you have responded to a customer letting them know that you will do something about their feedback, then do it! What could be worse than a customer feeling as though their feedback has been filed away in the trash.

Golden rule #8 – Respond – Don’t ignore customer feedback. Whilst it’s tempting to avoid responding in the hope that the complaint will go away, doing so will give the impression that you don’t care about your customers and the service they get.

Golden rule #9 – Feedback to your team – Always let your team know that feedback whether positive or negative has been received, and what you intend to do with that feedback. Involving them in what’s going on will mean they are engaged with the business

Golden rule #10 – Do the unexpected (in a good way) – When you are acting on feedback, do the unexpected to surprise the customer, they’ll remember what you did and tell their friends.

Don’t be afraid of social media, it’s a powerful tool that can do wonders for your business. Just be aware be careful what you post. Think of it as your storefront. You wouldn’t stand in your shop door arguing with a customer.