Three Essential “Don’ts” for Dealing with Feedback on Social Media

27 Aug

Three Essential “Don’ts” for Dealing with Feedback on Social Media

By B2B Marketing, crisis management, online PR, blog, social media

In this age of social media and instant communication, a business’ image can be exponentially enhanced, or irreversibly damaged, in a matter of seconds.  One of the best ways a company can maintain its online reputation is through customer feedback on its social media channels.  A Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn account can provide vast amounts of customer reactions and opinions.  These resources can be invaluable, if managed carefully.

Of course, not all feedback generated through these accounts is going to be positive.  A company that is able to appreciate negative feedback and turn it into a positive will develop strong customer loyalty and satisfaction.  Failure to correctly address negative feedback will solve nothing and alienate those who were dissatisfied with your product or service.  With that in mind, here are three of the most crucial “don’ts” for a company dealing with negative social media feedback.


1) Don’t ignore your customers

Why would a company offer an easily accessible outlet for customer feedback if they were not going to take advantage?  This is the question that goes through the minds of thousands of individuals every day when the comments, complaints, and suggestions, that they took time out of their day to offer, fall upon deaf ears.   A recent British survey stated that over 50% of respondents “complain on Twitter because they want companies to learn from their mistakes.”  These people are not just complaining for the sake of complaining, they want your business to improve and succeed.

Another recent study, conducted by the customer experience management firm Satmetrix, found that “69% of B2B companies have no process for responding to customer feedback via social media.” If you are a large company with a massive volume of customer feedback on social media, it is understandable that you might not reply to each and every post.  However, making an honest effort to address as many individuals as possible will get noticed and will be appreciated.  For a small to mid-sized company with a manageable influx of comments, there is not much of an excuse as to why you’d ignore the customers who care enough to try and help you improve your business.

2) Don’t lose the human element

People use social media websites to interact with other people, not faceless companies with accounts run by robots.  One of the biggest disservices a company can do to itself with their social media strategy is to forget this fact.  Progressive Insurance gave itself a world of headaches a few weeks ago when a very controversial decision they made to deny a deceased woman’s insurance claims went viral. After repeatedly backtracking and attempting to temper the outcry, Progressive began sending automated replies to customers on Twitter, a decision that ended up compounding the negative press brought on by the original issue, making critics go as far as to call them “heartless.”  While personal replies to individuals probably would not have righted all the perceived wrongs, Progressive could have at least made a conscious effort to appear caring to their followers.  Instead, they perpetuated the same negative image they were attempting to combat.

This is obviously an extreme example, but the principles hold true for any business.  Think about telephone help hotlines. Few phrases anger customers more than when they hear an automated voice say, “Your call is very important to us” after fifteen minutes on hold.  For some people, receiving this sort of automatic, faceless response is even worse than simply being ignored.

3) Don’t Censor Your Customers

Now, this is not to say a business should keep vulgar or irrelevant posts on their Facebook Wall.  Of course, these do not have a place on their social media platforms, and few would object to such posts being deleted.  However, censoring legitimate customer complaints and concerns is one of the gravest mistakes a business can make.  You might as well tell the individual “your opinion does not matter to us in the least.”  Companies make errors in service and judgment; nobody expects them to be perfect.  Showing customers that you are willing and able to learn from your mistakes can help to instill confidence in your brand as it continues to grow.  Another negative side effect of censoring a customer is that you run the risk of increasing their motivation to speak negatively about you.

A few days ago, Thomas Hawk, a photographer from Oakland, CA left a post on Wal Mart’s Facebook page after his wife was mugged outside their store.  It had no vulgarities and, considering the man’s wife had been mugged at the store, was written with in very reasonable tone. Wal Mart’s social media team simply deleted the post. However, Hawk did not give up, and further publicized the incident.  As of writing, one of his tweets regarding the situation had nearly 500 retweets.  That is a lot of negative press for concerns that Wal Mart could have alleviated by taking a few measures at the Oakland store and offering an honest apology.

In 2008, the Edelman Trust Barometer, a study of consumer perception, reported that, “consumers gave the highest amount of trust to companies that had the highest quality product and service.”  Less than five years later, product quality has dropped to the third highest priority.  What came in first place? Companies who were perceived as “transparent and honest.” Social media is a huge factor in this paradigm shift.  Being honest and attentive with feedback on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc is one of the most cost-effective and public ways to foster this trust.

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