Editor’s Note: This article was originally published by Web Marketing Today. Practical Ecommerce acquired Web Marketing Today in 2012. In 2016, we merged the two sites, leaving Practical Ecommerce as the successor.
Every small business that participates in social media must be prepared to handle customer service issues from time-to-time.
Customers may leave negative comments or reviews about your company, products, or services on occasion, which can be a good thing. It gives you the opportunity to show your followers that you take customer service — and their complaints — seriously.
Dealing with these issues needs to be a part of every company’s social media strategy. This should include a public comment policy and prepared responses to negative messages. I’ve included a template for each in this article.
A public comment policy sets the rules for engaging with your Facebook page (or any other social network for that matter). Place the policy in a separate tab on your Facebook page. If you allow comments on your website or blog, post it there as well.
The comment policy serves as a backup in the event a user leaves an offensive comment that warrants removal. While it will not satisfy everyone completely, most will understand that the comment was removed because it did not abide by the rules set forth on the page.
Having a comment policy does not give you an excuse to remove every complaint from your page. You should only delete those that fit the criteria outlined in it. Valid complaints need to be addressed.
Below is an example of a Facebook comment policy:
We welcome you and your comments to the Facebook page for [COMPANY NAME].
This site intends to inform and engage with the fans, friends, family members, and other businesses, entities, or interested persons of [COMPANY NAME].
You are encouraged to submit comments, questions, and concerns, but please note this is a moderated online discussion site and not a public forum.
Once posted, [COMPANY NAME] reserves the right to delete submissions that contain vulgar language, personal attacks of any kind, or comments we deem to be offensive or disparaging.
Further, [COMPANY NAME] also reserves the right to delete comments that:
- Contain spam, advertising, solicitations or include links to other sites;
- Are clearly off topic or disruptive;
- Are obscene, vulgar, or sexually explicit. This includes masked words (***), acronyms, and abbreviations;
- Are chain letters, pyramid schemes, or fraudulent or deceptive messages;
- Promote particular services, products, or political organizations or campaigns;
- Infringe on copyrights or trademarks;
- Advocate illegal activity;
- Violate any policies of [COMPANY NAME].
Please note that the comments expressed on this site do not reflect the opinions and official position of [COMPANY NAME].
Responding to Negative Comments
It’s usually best to leave negative comments on your page and respond appropriately. Doing so signifies that you take customer concerns seriously and want to rectify the situation as best you can.
It’s usually best to leave negative comments on your page and respond appropriately. Doing so signifies you take customer concerns seriously and want to rectify the situation as best you can.
Below are the various types of negative posts you may receive and how best to deal with them.
Widespread criticism. If many people are commenting or complaining about the same thing, it’s probably a larger issue that doesn’t require individual responses. A good strategy would be to post a video or comment from management with an explanation or solution. Be candid and open to feedback. Your customers will notice and appreciate that you value their concerns.
Individual solution-seekers. It can be difficult to respond to every unique issue from customers, but it’s incredibly vital that you do. Having a spreadsheet of appropriate responses ready for general situations will make this easier, but it’s important to tailor them to the particular concern.
These messages should attempt to move the conversation offline and out of the public eye. Provide a link to a customer service web page, email address, or phone number. When called for, offer them a small gift card or free product. Refrain from offering freebies publicly, however, as this could spawn false complaints.
Trolls. Trolling comments typically include inappropriate content, profanity, rants in all caps, or the consistently unfounded bashing of your brand. It’s fairly obvious when someone is trolling your page, and it’s appropriate to delete and block the comments, although only as a last resort.
Solicitors. Delete comments that promote anything unrelated to your company or products. This could include links to other websites or products, spam, or promotion of apps or games.
Fan to fan interaction. If fans on your page are having a debate, there’s no reason to get involved unless someone is presenting a blatantly inaccurate fact. It’s okay to jump in and clarify, but remove the brand from the discussion afterward. Otherwise, it’s best just to stay out of it. If the debate gets personal or offensive, delete the offending comments and block the users when necessary.
Finally, here are some specific examples of appropriate responses to complaints.