Transform negative social media feedback to positive relationships
How you respond to negative customer feedback online is key — don’t blow it!
As far as hobbies go, I’m a bit of a makeup geek. I have a blog about makeup, I watch YouTube tutorials on how to apply it, and I spend a ridiculous amount of money on it. I also subscribe to monthly makeup box, BoxyCharm. In my February box, I received a little doodad called a “Z Palette,” which is essentially an empty, magnetic palette that you can place eyeshadow, blush, and highlighter pans. It was interesting enough, but as I tend to buy premade palettes, I set it aside and went on my merry way.
A couple of weeks later, Z Palette gained my attention, and not in a good way. After a few customers had expressed shock at the price of Z Palette’s newest release, the Z Potter, the brand had a full meltdown on Instagram. Some of their responses to the criticisms included, “You look like a cheap date, but we’re not messing with you,” “It’s not that it’s expensive, it’s that you can’t afford it” and “About time you evolved.” Horrified at this outright bullying of customers, both BoxyCharm and Makeup Geek dropped the brand like a hot potato. Pretty soon, makeup lovers everywhere were calling for a boycott.
You’d think this would elicit an apology from Z Palette. It didn’t. Instead, they released a statement defending their actions; “As in life, so in business — it’s not how many friends/customers you have, it’s the quality of those customers.” Their comments didn’t sit well with those offended by their behavior. Within hours, everything was gone; the hateful comments, the statement, even a Winston Churchill quote they had retweeted from the founder’s Instagram account.
But of course, the internet never forgets.
As I watched this incident unfold, I was reminded of just how important it is to respond to customer feedback appropriately. No matter if you are selling beauty products or life insurance, your brand image can be positively or negatively impacted by the way your marketing department or local sales personnel engage with their followers on social media. There’s no doubt about it, criticism hurts, but lashing out at customers will only serve to hurt your business even more.
Instead, you should strive to transform negative feedback into something positive. You can do that in two ways:
1. Do what it takes to please the customer
The first step in responding to negative feedback is to determine why the customer is providing it in the first place. Most of the time they’ll be relatively straightforward with their complaint, but if you only have generalizations to go off of (i.e. “your service is subpar”), you’ll need to ask for more information. What’s more, you have to be willing to listen to what they have to say. Megan Sullivan, of Intuit, put it quite simply, “Listening to your clients or potential customers is the best way to understand and address their needs. Without open communication, the chances for misunderstandings and frustrations arise.”
Once you’ve identified the problem, it’s time to work toward a solution. How you resolve an issue will vary, depending on the situation. Sometimes an apology is enough, other times you’ll need to go a bit further, providing a refund or discount on future services. The bare minimum requires you acknowledge the bad experience, and apologize to the customer for it. Your response should be prompt, respectful, and sincere. A personalized message from the local retailer or call-outs to specific customers on the corporate brand page will go a long way. This will demonstrate that you truly care about your customers and their grievances. Remember, this response isn’t just for the person complaining; it’s also for everyone viewing this feedback — including potential customers.
Finally, after everything has been resolved, follow up with the complaining customer. Contact them via phone or email to confirm they are satisfied with the steps you took to correct the situation. Remember that when you are speaking with the customer, you are the face or voice of the brand even when the conversation goes in an aggravating or unpleasant direction. Some larger companies have a script for local customer service representatives to follow so that the message is not lead astray from brand values or its mission. Though it might be difficult, thank them for their feedback. Then, take a moment to ask for suggestions on how to prevent other customers from experiencing the same issue in the future. Doing so will confirm that you value their business, and more often than not, turn a bad experience into a positive relationship.
2. Make a Change
Feedback can always be used to gauge what is and isn’t working for your business. Since negative feedback is unavoidable, it’s best to view it as an opportunity to improve your service or product. Think of it as consumer research you didn’t have to pay an arm and a leg for. If you find there’s truth in a complaint, take the customer’s problem and any suggestions they offer into consideration. Keep a detailed record of complaints and document suggestions, tips, questions, and challenges people mention. Suggestions are incredibly valuable information that can be used to take your business to the next level.
Tips For Handling Negative Feedback
When responding to negative feedback, there are a few important things to keep in mind. First and foremost, don’t be defensive, flippant, or rude. Though critical reviews and harsh feedback can be incredibly upsetting, treating customers poorly can harm your business irreparably. Swift response times are favorable, but it’s perfectly acceptable (maybe even advisable) to take a deep breath and process the information before responding to feedback. Remember always to be polite because you are not just responding to a disgruntled person; you are reaching potential customers as well.
Ignoring negative feedback can be just as bad as responding inappropriately. It shows customers that you simply don’t care how they feel or what they have to say. When you receive credible feedback, it’s incredibly important to address it.
An easy fix can be resolved online; however, if a resolution requires a lengthy conversation, you’ll need to move it offline. Also examine whether the customer’s online complaint was the first method she used to contact you. Customer service software provider, HelpOnClick, explains, “When they [customers] complain via social media, you must have failed to resolve an issue in a timely manner, or the customer has not received the expected result. Complaining via social media means a high level of frustration and lost expectations. It is a good sign that you need to take care of your customer service channels.”
Finally, hire a social media manager to be in charge of interacting with the public and handling feedback. Not only will this help avoid a social media free-for-all, but it will also ensure timely responses. Establish a policy that specifies what kind of comments and responses are acceptable to customer feedback and with messages align with your brand. Review your business’s social media sites regularly to make sure your employees are staying on message, support them with adequate training and provide them with the tools to succeed through marketing automation tools.
In a distributed marketing situation, where you have sales reps or individual locations receiving negative feedback or reviews on social media, the corporate office must take the time to investigate whether these complaints hold water. If they do — and especially if you see a pattern — it may be time to have some pointed conversations to ensure customers are happy with your business at a local level. Your brand’s good name is important, and you need to make sure it’s being regarded highly across all channels.
No matter what you sell, your business is nothing without customers. That’s why exceptional customer service is one of the most effective forms of marketing. Companies that respond to negative feedback sincerely and politely do well, those who spew hateful comments end up suffering. Remember, the internet is forever; you can never truly delete a comment.
Z Palette learned this the hard way.
About the Author
Liz Greene is a writer, marketing professional, and Mattress Firm conspiracy theorist from the beautiful City of Trees, Boise, Idaho. You can catch her latest misadventures on her blog, Instant Lo.