[Last updated 14 August 2020]

Social media management is an essential part of any modern business strategy. While most businesses use social media marketing, recent Salesforce research shows that customer service teams are playing catch up in the radical customer service transformation. 

Customers are, on average, 16% more likely to use a given channel for communication than the company uses that same channel to deliver customer support. This gap between what customers expect and what companies are delivering needs to be bridged - but companies still shy away from the challenge of overcoming negativity while in the public eye.

Customer service on social media demands a dedicated strategy. Effective social media management has to be in place, particularly when it comes to dealing with negative comments. How you respond to these comments is crucial for your brand perception on social channels, and a great strategy can help avoid costly damage to your reputation.

These 8 quick tips will help you effectively deal with negative social comments every time:

 

1. Utilise social media listening to get ahead

While it’s altogether possible that you’ll get negative comments on your own site or one that you manage (e.g. your Facebook page), this is not always the case. People can blast you on Twitter, a third party forum, their own blogs or across any of your digital channels. The bottom line is you need a way of keeping track of all conversations and comments across all channels. Doing this manually is basically impossible. The solution? Social media listening tools that can do this for you.

Social media listening is a strategy that uses social media management tools to automatically keep track of all your conversations and interactions across all social channels in one dashboard. At a glance, you can track what conversations are important to respond to, and you’ll never miss a critical comment or piece of feedback again. The best Social CRM software suites can monitor conversations that mention your brand in real-time and even give you a heads-up on the sentiment behind the words.

 

2. Speed matters for customer service on social media

One of the reasons people post negative comments online is because they don’t think they’re being listened to (in-store, on the phone or by email). So they lash out. Some do this just to warn their friends off using what they believe to be a bad product. Others – the more social media savvy ones – will do it to hurt you and force you to pay attention.

Speed is of the essence. According to the Salesforce State of the Connected Customer report, consumers and business buyers are 4.5x and 5x as likely, respectively, to rate real-time messaging an important feature after purchasing a product. And it makes sense - there is nothing more frustrating than investing in a new product, only to be left in the dust while you try and figure it out how it works. So use social media management software to your advantage and respond quickly before a customer feels like you’re not listening.

 

3. Good social media management focuses on resolution

Don’t offer excuses. Instead, focus on resolution. Customers don’t want to hear why something went wrong, they want to know what you can do about it. Firstly, acknowledge the customer’s issue as quickly as possible before it snowballs and picks up other customers and prospects on the way. 

You do not necessarily need to have an immediate solution – an open, non-judgemental enquiry about exactly what happened will be enough to start the process of constructive engagement and open up an opportunity to turn a negative experience into a positive one. After that, try and resolve their issue as quickly as possible. Sometimes, thanks to the public nature of social media, your great customer service might even earn you a referral when other users see how you treat your customers.

 

4. Sometimes it’s best to take it offline

Social forums are not always the best place to resolve complex issues. And being in a public forum may make it hard for an angry customer to soften their stance. Offer to take the conversation private - all social media platforms have a private messaging feature. This shouldn’t be an attempt to silence the critic, simply to help them where it makes sense. No one wants to read a thread of ten replies of you trying to resolve a support issue.

Also, “take it out of the spotlight” doesn’t mean “delete”. Better for people to see your constructive response to the negative comment than get buried in messages accusing you of curating out all the negative social media comments. Most social media management software can greatly streamline this workflow, as you can respond across all channels from within one dashboard. No need to constantly switch between all your profiles.

 

5. Know how to say sorry

For some companies on social media, “sorry” is indeed the hardest word. Often it’s because they don’t want to take the blame. Or they don’t agree with the customer’s point of view. But, if we look at it from the customer’s viewpoint, then it is hard to argue with their experience.

Of course, if it is clear that your product failed, then a sincere apology followed by a quick replacement (or refund) should nip the issue in the bud. If it was a service failure, then an apology to the effect of “We’re sorry that you did not get the service you expect from us on this occasion” is a good start. Following this up with something tangible (e.g. a money-off voucher for their next purchase) will also help.

It’s important to not sound like a robot when you do this. If this is a universal issue many people are experiencing at the same time, it’s easy to copy and paste responses. At least they’ll know you’ve seen it, right? Not quite. If you can, make the effort to personalise your response so they know they’re not talking to a customer service bot.

 

6. Leverage analytics with social media management software

Research in the State of the Connected Customer report shows that the average consumer uses 10 different channels when communicating with companies. Clearly, businesses need an omnichannel approach to offering customer service on social media. While this is a lot to keep track of, Social CRM can take all this data and generate meaningful analytics insights that you can use to optimise your customer support activities. As the number of customer service channels grows, monitoring analytics will become increasingly important. 

A recent Salesforce survey of UK customer service teams shows the following:

  • 72% of customer service teams already provide customer service on social media. 

  • 13% plan to use social for customer service in the next 18 months.

  • 55% already use messenger apps like Whatsapp and Facebook Messenger. 

  • A further 18% of Customer Service teams plan on using messenger apps in the next 18 months.

So, the days of the humble contact form for offering feedback are gone. Telecoms giant BT says that it now receives 40% all of their feedback from customers on Twitter. Cleary, not only excellent best practice social media management is needed but also the ability to track and analyse this vast amount of customer data.

 

7. Dealing with trolls in social media management

Sadly, of course, some people just want to cause trouble. They troll across social media and enjoy the notoriety this brings. And any interaction only encourages them to carry on their behaviour. So what do you do?

If you’re sure that their claims are without merit, the best long-term strategy may be to ignore them. However, as social media is a highly visible, public forum, commenting once to the effect that what they are saying is inaccurate and unfair (and providing the facts to support this) will at least give other viewers the true picture.

 

8. Great social media management is all about clear workflows

Dealing with negative comments is much easier when a clear workflow is in place. But manually mapping out and optimising these workflows is very time-consuming. Which is why social media management software is at the heart of every effective customer service organisation using social as a channel of support. Social CRM can take a lot of the stress of manually mapping out support workflows such as:

  • Tracking important conversations and negative brand mentions 

  • Measuring customer sentiment 

  • Gaining powerful insights from powerful analytics reporting

The power of this social CRM  software can be the difference between quickly resolving customer support issues or losing customers due to lack of efficiency.

 

Deliver excellent customer service on social media

Ready to take your customer service to the next level? Use Social CRM to delight your customers across all social media channels.

Check out the third edition of the State of Service Report for key industry insights on all the latest trends in customer service.