The “Rise of the Social Media Complainer” (or moaner) as we like to call it in the office, is clearly evident for all to see with astonishing results sometimes. Who can forget the astonishing story of the Twitter user who gained instant notoriety but more importantly loads of free pizza (for a year) by effectively forcing Three and O2 to start a social media war with each other.

Social media has changed the relationship between brands and their fans dramatically. Today customers increasingly expect companies to quickly answer questions and queries via social networks such as Facebook or Twitter. What is more, it is now considered common practices for users to leave a review or complaint on TripAdvisor, Yell and recently Facebook reviews.

Customer service nowadays has become quickly responsive and open for anyone to see. Customers expect a speedy, effective and empathetic resolution to their complaints and companies need to be listening and responding accordingly. Based on discussions with our partners  and clients(of all shapes and sizes), we came up with 5 basic rules to follow when it comes to social response:

  • Answer in a timely fashion

It’s important to respond to all complaints or queries (potential complaints sometimes) as quickly and efficiently as possible on Social Media. It not only shows the complaining party that you acknowledge his issue but are also looking into it. Ideally, try to respond in no longer than 30 minutes to every query you may receive at your page, under a post or in your inbox. You may obviously not have a solution straight away for your customers but let them know you are aware of the issue raised and will make sure to provide them with a response within a designated period which will allow you to seek the help you require. It’s important to consistently provide this same level of response on social media, even on bank holidays, weekends or days off as it creates a precedent and customers will also relay that to other users.

  • Reach out directly to the user

Ideally try to always direct the complaint towards a DM (Direct Message) or email to avoid public “trial” of your potential error. In addition, always address the user directly, respond to their comment or complaint and ideally try to tag them in your response. This gives the user the impression you are not only looking into his complaint as one of many but as a priority with direct knowledge of the issue.

  • Display empathy in a conversational tone

Always respond in a conversational and friendly tone. Remember, complaints (or at least the majority of them) are not directly aimed at you but your company or services so do not take it personally and demonstrate a helpful stance to whatever the issue may be. Though social media “Complainers” (Some may go as far as calling them haters) may not expect a reply, they definitely crave the attention of an audience. That’s why they raise the stakes and take grievances to a public forum. Inserting empathy into your interactions with social media “haters” or complainants means your customer is being heard and his issue dealt with appropriately.

  • If it is your mistake, take ownership & rectify it

Consumers know tvery well that no business is perfect the same way you are also aware of that. So owning up to any potential errors or mistakes actually enhances your credibility and shows you are willing to take ownership. In addition, it can also put an end to an issue without perpetuating or prolonging it indefinitelyallowing you to spend your time productively on solving the actual issue.

However, it is key here that you personalise and make sure your apology is carefully written and in line with the complaint or error in question. Remember users are online all day and have much more time than you to find “copy-pasted” responses or “fake” apologies and will as quickly jump on them. So make sure to be sincere and genuine in your “sorry” statement.

  • Have a solution action plan

Finally, all of the above would be completely obsolete if you do not have a valid, feasible and operational customer service plan or model. Its all good responding quickly but there needs to be a set out process for potential escalation of a problem or forwarding to the relevant department so as to be resolved in a timely fashion and accurately too.

Conclusively, it is important to remember that it is best to focus all your energy on understanding the nature of your complaint and how it can be used to improve your service or product. There will obviously always be the odd troll, competitor or simply a member of the public that does not like your brand but make sure to use the rest of the complaints, reviews or responses in a positive way that can impact your service or product and better it for the customer. Social media provides a huge opportunity to listen to your customers to improve your understanding and deliver an even better service.

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