You may, at some stage, receive a complaint online. Each and every strategy document that I send out has some version of the below process, and so I wanted to share it for all to use.

There's plenty of cases of bad customer service on social media. So many! Please take the time to plan ahead so a) the bad PR doesn't happen, and b) you can offer better experiences for your customers.

1. Quickly respond

Respond to the comment as soon as possible, on the same platform. It is important that this acknowledgement is as timely as possible, to avoid the perception of appearing ignorant. Responses within 20 minutes of the complaint are preferred, however there's more forgiveness between industries, cultures and size of businesses. For comparison, 42% of US customers expect a response within  one hour.

Where an answer to a query is easy enough and not sensitive, these should be given as a direct reply to the question on the same platform.

2. Address the complaint personally, privately

In this response, acknowledge mistakes made, and focus on proactive steps rather than blame.

Always include the user/name of the person concerned. Where a full answer can't be provided within the platform, an appropriate response to a complaint might say:

Hi, [NAME], thanks for letting us know, and we’re sorry you [had this experience]. Can you email us at [EMAIL] so we can set things right?
— Brand voice example

Where an issue is sensitive, move the complaint from the public forum of the social media page by presenting a private contact option and showing your willingness to continue the conversation further.

Personalise the reply, not only by referring to the user by name, but also from your end as service provider. This reminds the user that “real people” are behind your brand. You can even improve this by signing off with your individual name.

@username thanks for letting us know, and we’re sorry for the mistake. If you privately message me your reference number I can investigate? - [STAFF NAME]
— Staff member sign-off example

3. Make an Example

You should generally leave the public complaint and solutions on the channel where received. This will show your community and other followers the way in which you handle complaints, and thus how your brand would treat them if they were ever to have a complaint.

What do you think? This is a standard procedure of course, and your brand may choose to add additional approaches, tones or procedures. The point is to improve on your community's experiences, offer more value than what is expected, and to do so in a way which suits your brand best. Good luck!

If you need additional help with your social media response strategy, get in touch!