This happens to the best of us! Someone online isn’t happy with your service or product and they run to social media to voice their opinions.

Now keep in mind that a social media complaint is different from someone calling in or emailing in a complaint. It’s public and out in the open. Everyone can see it. And it’s not uncommon for these types of complaints to turn into a disaster!

But never fear! Today I’m going to walk you through some of my tips for how to nativate the sensitive situation you’ve just encountered.  

#1 – Do Not Delete or Ignore Them

Please do not delete the complaint or negative comment. In most cases, this will agitate the situation even more. Deleting the comment is a sign of embarrassment. Other consumers and followers may feel like you’re hiding something. And the person who left the comment may feel and increased agitation because, in a sense, you’re removing something they felt was important. They took the time out of their day to leave a comment on your social media accounts. They felt so strongly about their issue that they took the time to nativagte to your social media account and say something about it. Do not delete it!

And don’t ignore the comment either! If there is something negative or a complaint on your account, address it. Ignoring it says that as a business, you don’t care about your customers. You don’t care about your social media followers. You can’t be bothered to take 2 minutes and respond to this public display of dissatisfaction. Don’t ignore it!

Now, as a side bar, there are very rare cases when deleting a comment is necessary. I want to emphasize that this is very rare. Don’t get crazy with it. And I’ll use an example here. One of my client’s last year launched a project that was a video series about police brutality called The Compliance Series. Because of the sensitive nature of the subject matter, we’d get comments that were had outright hate or racism or anger on our videos. So we deleted and blocked those individuals.

The only time I recommend deleting a comment is if the individual is showing outrate hate our anger or inappropriate behavior.

#2 – Respond as Quickly as Possible

The faster you can respond to an issue the better. Even if you don’t immediately have an answer, respond and let them know that you’re working on a solution.

I think a same day response is totally acceptable. Some mega companies try to make it their goal to respond within the hour. If you have a large team, that could work. But most of us are running a bare bones organization so just make sure to check in daily and respond within 24 hours, if you can.

#3 – Show Compassion

Your customers know that no person or business is perfect. They’re weren’t born yesterday. So please don’t try to hide the fact that there was a mistake made.

Taking ownership of what you’ve done to cause this customer’s reaction is a great way to diffuse the situation.

It’s ok to be human and approach this apology in a natural way. Show off your ability to be humble and genuine and apologetic.

Even if you think it wasn’t your fault, take a moment to pause and show that person compassion. One of the lessons I was taught when I worked at the Marriott was to show that you are on their side. By showing that you’re there to help them through whatever is happening, you’re turning the encounter from being a potential battle to being a problem solving collaboration.

If you go in guns blazing and with fists up, chances are that one comment could turn into a nightmare of public shaming.

#4 – Take it Offline

Don’t problem solve in the actual comments. Instead, direct this person to contact you in another way either by direct message, or email, or phone!

By taking the conversation offline in a compassionate way, you’re allowing some wiggle room for resolution. Let’s say this person is asking for a refund on something. You don’t want to advertise to all that if they raise a stink on social media, anyone can get a refund.

Instead, you’re implying that you’re starting a deeper conversation with that individual to resolve their issue.

You’re also allowing yourself to be more personal with the person who has reached out. You’re giving yourself or your team a chance to understand the root of the issue. You’re creating space for dialogue which could lead to improving your product or improving your messaging which could mimizize future situations like this.

#5 – Create some Guidelines

If you see a complaint or question pop up consistently on social media, it’s time to great some standard procedures for responding to these types of inquiries.

My team and I create these for each client’s accounts that we manage. As we see some questions or concerns pop up regularly, we take a moment to jot down the question along with how to respond.

I’ll give an example for one of my favorite client’s Tonica Kombucha. We’d often get questions that skewed a bit negative about how fizzy or bubbly the kombucha was. Since this kombucha was processed a bit differently (and in a more natural way), there was a ton of fizz when you opened a bottle. Some people who bought the kombucha would be surprised by this and comment about it on social media. We had a standard reply that we could share to explain what was happening in a human way.

Don’t just copy and paste responses like these. Instead, use them as a guideline for how you could continue the conversation with someone who’s reached out to you.

More and more people are turning to social media as their sounding board so it’s important for us as business to be ready to handle moments when people are reaching out, negative or otherwise. I’ve found that more often than not, most people just want to be heard.  They just want someone to acknowledge what they’re going through. That’s all. If you can do that, you’ve won half the battle.

Andréa Jones is a social media strategist who works with lifestyle brands to build their online presence through targeted social media and content marketing solutions. She’s also the founder of SavvySocialSchool.com – a membership community with everything you need to achieve visibility, growth, and engagement on social media.

Did you get a customer complaint or a negative comment on your social media account? Listen in to learn how to navigate this sensitive situation.