social media planAnswering to negative feedback is the foundation of good customer service, and today more than ever, customers are airing their complaints through social media. Whether it’s through a harsh Facebook post or an upset tweet, people are able to quickly and easily voice their complaints about brands. JC Penney saw an immediate buzz on social media from the reaction to a tea kettle, sold on their website, that closely resembled a certain infamous dictator. The product had the ability to cause a major backlash for JC Penney and hurt public perception of the brand. However, JC Penney’s swift actions and solid social media plan were able to diffuse the situation and protect their brand image.

JC Penney was able to come out ahead in their situation because they responded to it quickly, acknowledged the mistake, and reassured their customers of the integrity of their brand. The manner in which they handled the situation prevented much further negative feedback. Not every brand is so successful at spinning negative feedback positively, largely due to a lack of a strategic social media plan. Below, we will explore how to effectively respond to negative feedback using social media to maintain your brand’s image and prevent detractors.

Don’t Hide From It

The first mistake a company can make when answering to negative social media feedback is trying to act like it doesn’t exist. Deleting or hiding posts doesn’t resolve issues and will only lead to continued negative response. Not responding at all to a customer’s issue will cause them to feel your brand is indifferent, which directs them to stop using your goods or services. Brands need to own their customers’ issues and respond to all complaints or criticisms.

Mediate, Don’t Instigate

The “customer is always right” mentality plays a role here, as social media isn’t the place to argue or prove a point to a customer. Regardless of whether you agree with your customer’s complaint or not, you have to accept its validity and be an advocate for that customer. Arguing with customers through social media can escalate quickly and turn into a disaster for your brand. You should never use aggressive or inappropriate language when engaging on social media, the tone should be calm and reassuring.

Ready to Resolve

It isn’t just enough to apologize in response to negative feedback. The customers give feedback because they are looking for a resolution. When answering to criticism, you should have a plan set for how to correct or make up for the issue at hand. This is where the personal connection between brand and customer can be improved by taking the customer’s feelings to heart and resolving their specific personal issue. Not every complaint or criticism is the same, and your responses should reflect that by showing empathy. Timeliness is huge when dealing with social media, and all feedback should be addressed promptly. JC Penney was successful in minimizing backlash from their controversial teakettle because they got ahead of the situation, quickly apologizing to anyone offended and removing the product from their site. Handling these situations with speed is very important in preventing the quick spread of negative buzz.

Time and Place

Criticism on social media should be handled with a certain level of tact, avoiding any further negative response. The standard best practice is to respond to negative feedback right at the source, addressing and resolving the issue in the open. However, there are times where a conversation may not be appropriate for public view. If a customer is overly upset or angry, it may be a better idea to handle the conversation privately with them, maybe in a personal email. In some rare cases, a customer could be inconsolable and just venting their anger without wanting a resolution. This is an exception where a brand is better off letting the customer go, avoiding instigating further negative posting.

Use as an Opportunity

Negative feedback should be welcomed and accepted by brands because it is an opportunity to improve brand image and customer experience. However, if your brand is only receiving negative feedback, there are likely larger issues to be addressed. The reason negative feedback can help a brand is that their customers are reaching out for help, asking for the brand to help them instead of just walking away. Responding to complaints via social media is a chance for brands to take a possible detractor and turn them into a promoter.

If your social media plan doesn’t include policies for dealing with negative feedback, it may be time to re-evaluate. Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn could be some of your most powerful marketing tools, but only if you know how to use them in every situation—including apologies.

photo credit: orangeacid via photopin cc