Social media is a powerful tool for engaging your customers, but it can also be a double-edged sword. Web 2.0 has largely put the fate of businesses’ reputations in the hands of the consumers. Arizona restaurant Amy’s Baking Company learned this the hard way when they engaged in perhaps the most out-of-control brand meltdown in Facebook history. Take some cues from the fiery owners of Amy’s so that you know what not to do in response to negative social mentions.
What NOT to Do
Never reply in all caps
The owners, Amy and Samy, posted quite a few of their status updates in all caps, no doubt to add emphasis. This is basic online etiquette and should go without saying, but on the internet, typing in all caps is considered shouting. Not only that, but readers don’t take you seriously when you do it. You don’t need to add extra emphasis to your message. Let the words carry themselves.
Do not reply to everyone
Amy’s Baking Company quickly gained popularity on Reddit when a member posted a video of the restaurant when it was featured on Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares. The video drew a slew of comments, which the owners drew attention to on Facebook. This in turn drew a slew of Facebook comments, which drew more responses from the owners. You can see how this can escalate quickly. Not all negative comments warrant a response.
Do not name call
The owners called respondents names like “idiots,” “little kids,” and even went so far as to use profanity in their Facebook updates. This should also go without saying, but don’t call your customers names. Even if they insult your product, insult your wife, and question your parenting abilities, just don’t do it.
Leave out your personal views
The Amy’s rants contained quite a few uncomfortable comments about religion. Your goal should be to resolve the problem, not to have a rousing debate or convince others of your beliefs. Even if the customer is the one trying to engage you in discussions about religion or politics, stick to the issue at hand.
Do not engage in public arguments
As Amy and Samy have proven, public disputes tend to draw attention. You don’t want your customers to see you as unprofessional and combative. Avoid hashing out disagreements for all of your followers to see.
Do not blame the customer
Samy ended one status update in which he was defending the restaurant’s prices with “Do not blame us because you cannot afford quality.” Even if the customer is scathing in their rebuke of your practices, avoiding putting the blame back on them. You don’t want to come off as a business owner who responds to criticism by avoiding responsibility.
Do not go on television and behave badly
Viral video is real. If ever your business is featured on television, put your best face forward and avoid unprofessional behavior. Otherwise, you could find yourself with more negative social mentions than you can handle.
What to Do Instead
Reply with empathy
Put yourself in your customer’s shoes and try to understand why they’re upset. Try to imagine how you would want a business owner to respond in that situation.
Amy and Samy are also notorious for their indignant replies to negative restaurant reviews on Yelp. Instead of being defensive, try to clarify on the situation and why the customer is unhappy. This also shows that you’re serious about getting the issue resolved.
Avoid injecting your personal opinions and beliefs into the conversation. Make the goal to resolve the conflict at hand, not to win an argument.
Hold conversations privately
Instead of handling the negative mention in the comments section, invite the customer to call or email your customer support department. If necessary, encourage them to contact you directly.
Moderate your social media
Trolls do exist. Just because someone is dissatisfied with your business doesn’t give them permission to post spam and flame your Facebook page. Create a social media policy, make it available to the public, and boot those who violate it.
Take advantage of constructive criticism
Sometimes a customer’s negative social mention can help you to improve your products and services for the future. Use feedback to your advantage when it is constructive instead of dismissing it.
Apologize when needed
Never act too big to apologize if the problem was on your end. A simple apology can do a lot to diffuse the situation.
For the most part, social media is meant to yield positive results for businesses. However, as in the real world, businesses should be prepared to deal with unhappy customers from time to time. This isn’t always a bad thing. Constructive feedback can help you improve your business in the future. As for destructive feedback, you can always hit the block button.