Social media platforms have revolutionised human interactions, not only on a personal level, but also from a business point of view. For companies, it is a fantastic opportunity to communicate and engage directly with their customers and get immediate results on marketing campaigns, but social media is a double-edged sword: you can get information out there instantly, but so can consumers, and unfortunately, when they make the time to get in touch with you, it is more often because something has gone wrong rather than to sing your praise.

A staggering 879 million complaints a year are posted on social media. While not all of them require a reply, not having a policy about how to handle them is very unwise. Consumers who use social media to complain often do so because they have had no success getting your attention through traditional communication channels such as your contact centre, so they are also an indicator of how your customer service operations are performing.

Here are a few golden rules on how to handle social media complaints:

  • They won’t go away, so don’t ignore them

Not replying to a complaint will only make your customer angrier and will reflect poorly on your brand. Consumers getting in touch through social media expect an answer within an hour, so make sure that you have adequate human resources and that posts are dealt with promptly.

  • Don’t try and change communication channels

If a customer is already unhappy with you, asking them to switch communication channels to suit you is unlikely to be received well. You are in the dog house, so be flexible and make sure that your technology enables your staff to deal with customers the way they want.

  • Go the extra mile

Sometimes, all that consumers want is to feel that they are being heard and a freebie may be just what you need to diffuse a bad situation, so be generous. It will often cost you little, especially compared to reputation damage

  • Have a clear internal policy

Not every social media post is a complaint that needs addressing but it is crucial that you clearly set out what does require action to empower your staff to deal with consumers effectively. Likewise, it is vital to define the criteria that warrant escalating complaints higher up in the company so that corrective strategies can be implemented company-wide when relevant.