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Those who use social media just to promote themselves are often confused about why it doesn’t seem to work for them, why they get nothing in return for their Facebook posts and tweets, and eventually they stop using it, denouncing it as pointless. What these people don’t understand is that social media is the dialogue between a company or brand and the customers that they serve. It is a conversation, and mindless self promotion will never work. This is why it is a platform bound to fall into customer service. When someone has a bad experience they are far more likely to tell someone than if they have a good one, and social media means that they can talk directly to the company. Social media catapults their complaint, and the way it is handled, into the public domain.

The Difficulties of Complaints on Social Media 

One of the challenges of dealing with complaints on social media is that because it is embarrassing for companies, it motivates them to deal with these complaints faster than ones conveyed through the usual channels of letter, email or phone. While this is good for those who use social media to complain, it’s not so good for those who don’t. Bad business practice such as this is to be discouraged. It is unfair; just because it is more public doesn’t mean it should be dealt with differently.

It also encourages a culture of instant gratification that means that consumers expect their complaint to be dealt with immediately. The longer they wait the more irate they are likely to become, and the more likely they are to damage a brand’s reputation. The ability to complain directly and converse with the company itself opens up the opportunity for consumers to complain about insignificant details and expect to be compensated for their unreasonable expectation. While this might make a company panic, they can be safe in the knowledge that while social media is used as a complaints platform, it is also used to give praise. When a genuine complaint is dealt with well, the positive interactions can improve the company’s overall perception.

Another challenge is that the social media team of companies is often ill-equipped to deal with complaints, and don’t know what to do, and can potentially end up dealing with the matter in a way that doesn’t fit with company policy.

How to Deal With a Social Media Complaint 

You shouldn’t see it as threat, but as a challenge to prove how much you value the customer. It is important to remember that we all get frustrated and irritated. This is one reason to make sure that your social media team has experience or training in how to deal with customer complaints. A system that quantifies, classifies and delegates responsibility to the right person is necessary for dealing with complaints. For instance, a certain ‘type’ of complaint may be able to be dealt with by the social media team, and another may need to be passed on to the customer service team.

You should always respond to a complaint. Completely ignoring it will just give the consumer more cause to complain. Whether it’s just a “We’re looking into it” or a “Please complain through the necessary channels”, most people would rather be responded to in some form than not at all. To maintain a good relationship with your consumers, you should monitor your social media platforms daily so you can engage in conversation with them as well as filter out any complaints that they might have.

Talk to them like you’re a person. Always use an appropriate tone, and have the person dealing with their complaint use their name. This helps to remind consumers that there are humans behind the corporate logo. Particularly abusive complaints should never be ignored, no matter how nasty they are; you should focus on the aspect of proving the excellence of your customer service to this person. Using their name and being accommodating can often disarm an inappropriate complainant.

Turning a Complaint Around

If you deal with a complaint around so that the customer is happy and satisfied in the public domain of social media, then it will boost the perception of your company. The value of responding in an appropriate and timely manner to complaints reinforces the concept of social media as a conversation, as well as what having a good persona online can do for a business’s perception and subsequently their sales too.

Ama Revie writes for international SEO company Ingenuity Digital a UK based search engine optimisation and social media marketing company.