Navigate the Negatives of Social Media

Social media is a powerful marketing tool, but it’s not all good all the time. What’s to be done about negative customer feedback?

In the past 15 years, social media has evolved far beyond merely being a place for the masses to converse and share photos with friends and family around the planet. Today, it is their connection to the world around them in more ways than one and business owners should know this.

Gone are the days of the guidebook, the Yellow Pages, White Pages and, in some ways, the web search. When consumers are looking for something to eat or something fun to do in your town, they’re increasingly looking to social media. Their smartphone is in their hand already and they’re using social media, so why would they go any further than punching in a search right then and there? For venue owners and restaurateurs, it pays to be there for them at that moment of consideration. For that reason and many more, a good social media presence is a necessity in modern business. It can reveal your institution to new customers, give you a voice in the community, help people associate you with fun, reliability and enjoyment and be used as an avenue to promote new services, products, events and activities.

But it’s a double-edged sword.

To live, breathe and operate on social media means to accept the good with the bad. It’s important to have public conversations with your customers and good feedback is a powerful marketing tool, but what happens when customers post bad feedback, or share negative experiences they’ve had at your establishment? Any venue worth its salt should garner mainly positive feedback overall, but accidents do happen and if a customer goes to social media with their gripe, it’s important to know what to do. Done well, a response to negative feedback on social media can be turned into a positive – a complaint should be treated as a chance to prove that yours is a business that takes pride in its product, cares about its patrons and will go to great lengths to ensure
their satisfaction.

The impact of negative reviews

Social media has given customers immense power to influence the public perception of a business. They are the new authority and collectively hold more influence than restaurant and venue review sites. With a few taps of the thumb, customers can find your business on social media and see ratings from others. If the feedback is mainly good, they’ll think of your venue positively.

If not, they’ll keep scrolling and frequent your competitors’ venues instead. Thus, negative reviews have the potential to – very publicly – damage the relationship between you and your potential customers. On top of this, a negative reputation can be hard to fix. If you’re racking up a number of negative reviews, it can be very difficult to turn the tide. Moving quality service and customer satisfaction to the top of your priority list now and into the future will help minimise those negative reviews and also give you a more trustworthy voice that customers are more receptive to when you’re addressing them.

How to manage negative reviews

Remember: a negative review should be treated as a chance to showcase your quick, personable and generous approach to customer service.

Don’t wait

Speed matters in social media and customer service in general. If you’ve received a negative review, then you’re already dealing with a dissatisfied customer. The longer a negative comment or review festers on your page without response, the more time it has to damage your reputation. Customers do expect rapid responses today. If you’re in a busy period and unable to address the particular concern directly in the moment, at least acknowledging you’ve received the message and will respond to it soon is better than nothing.

Be human, transparent and positive

By responding in a helpful and genuine manner, you can take control of the situation. Never take criticism personally, never respond negatively and never make excuses. Where possible, respond as the business owner. An angry customer wants to feel heard and a great tip here is to restate the complaint in your response. If their complaint is about something to do with the preparation of their meal, try something like, “I’m so sorry your dish wasn’t prepared to
your liking.”

Respond publicly, then take it private

It’s important that the public sees your positive acknowledgment of a complaint, but there’s no need for you and a customer to air your business’ dirty laundry for all to see. On a direct channel or over the phone, you’ll be able to discuss their complaint and arrange refunds or whatever needs doing directly. Once it’s sorted, follow up again publicly again to confirm the issue was resolved.

The right response to negative feedback on social media can help you turn unhappy, vocal customers into advocates, so don’t panic next time you see a negative post – you know what to do!

This article was first published in State of Play, Issue 7, 2020

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