Negative feedback is always disheartening to receive. It can feel hurtful, particularly when it relates to your business that you have poured so much time and energy into.
But by reacting with a level head and an even temper, you can minimise the risk to your business' reputation, and help turn around a potentially toxic situation with an unhappy customer.
Always look into the issue that’s been raised. Complaints made on social media may be entirely reasonable objections, even if they’re expressed on a public forum or in an unpleasant way.
Negative feedback can be an opportunity to learn which areas of your business aren’t working as well as they could. Lots of complaints about the same issue would be a clear sign of a specific problem.
Use your common sense; don't match an unhappy customer's tone in your response even if they are hurtful or rude. Though you may feel offended, angry or misrepresented, it's vital to keep your replies professional and neutral.
Judith Turner from the Dispute Resolution Ombudsman advises implementing a social media policy. In addition to general guidelines around how formal or informal you want to be, thinking about how you will deal with any negativity ahead of time gives you and your staff a procedure to follow when problems arise.
People generally complain because they want you to put things right. Online or offline, a well-handled complaint can create loyal customers, who will tell others how well you dealt with their problem.
But get it wrong online and the problem can escalate, turning an individual complaint into an online inquisition.
As Gareth Williams, of Gareth Williams Heating in Newport told us: ‘Twitter can be a funny animal. There’s a bit of a social etiquette on there, if somebody sees something that’s not quite right or somebody’s broken the (unwritten) code of conduct, everybody piles in and gives them a hard time. You have to be careful.’
If you get the complaint handling wrong, you need to apologise – fast. Acknowledge the error openly and honestly until the problem is resolved.
The quicker you deal with the problem, the more likely it is that any negative reaction will be contained.
Although it is unusual, it is possible to be the victim of corporate cyber bullying. This is where businesses game the system of leaving customer reviews. An example would be a restaurant posting negative reviews on their competitors’ pages.
At Which? Trusted Traders we verify all reviews, but not all sites are so thorough. If someone has posted an offensive comment that breaks a site's rules, you have the right to report it and ask for its removal.
If someone has posted something offensive on your own page, you may choose to delete the post.
You can specify in your social media policy that you reserve the right to delete posts on your own pages that include bad language or personal information, such as individual employees' names. With a clear policy you are able to provide a simple explanation for any decision to delete posts.
Remember, that whatever you do and however you decide to use social media – there’s permanence about it. What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas but what happens on Twitter is there forever.