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Responding to Negative Comments on Social Media: Dos and Don’ts

Social media can be a great way to communicate with both customers and prospects. But what happens when the conversation turns negative? For banks and credit unions, this is a particularly tricky question. Consumers expect a high level of transparency on social media, especially when it comes to their finances. Here is a list of dos and don’ts to help you navigate through the negativity.

Do: Respond Quickly

Social media moves fast – and customers expect nearly instant answers. A general rule of thumb is to respond within one hour. Having a designated team of responders can help with the delegating of who responds and when. This team should also be well-versed in social media etiquette and company guidelines for responding to negative comments.

Even if you don’t have a resolution to the problem, most customers will appreciate a swift response and it could prevent the issue from escalating further. This could come in the form of multiple posts on all social media platforms, and possibly phone calls to management over an issue that could most likely have been resolved with one quick response to the original comment.

Don’t: Delete the Comment

While it may be tempting to get rid of the of the negative comment, this can create an even bigger issue. The commenter will know the comment has been deleted, and may continue to post negative comments on that platform, as well as your other social media sites. What could have been one complaint has now turned into multiple issues. An exception to this is if the commenter leaves profane, illicit, and/or offensive language on your site. In that case the post should be deleted, and that user blocked and reported to the platform.

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Do: Take the Conversation Offline As Soon as Possible

When it comes to finances, you can never be too careful with account security. Customers don’t always realize that thousands of others could be watching the financial institution’s social media sites looking for information that could be used to compromise their account. When a customer reaches out via a non-secure method such as social media, it’s best to reach out and give them contact information to resolve the issue further (i.e. a phone number or email address). This takes the conversation offline and allows you to go over specifics. Many institutions have dedicated contact numbers and email addresses solely for this purpose. This can be especially helpful if a customer is complaining about something urgent, and you don’t want to send them to a generic inbox or give them a phone number where they will have to wait on hold. This would likely incite a new barrage of negative comments from that customer.

Don’t: Get Defensive

We’ve all heard the saying “the customer is always right,” and while that may not be exactly true, social media is all about perception. And when responding to a negative comment you’re not just responding to the person who wrote it, but all of the other followers who may also see it. Keeping this in mind, if a customer complains about a specific issue, it’s best to acknowledge the issue and take ownership. This can be a powerful tool, because humility is a very human behavior and people often forget that there are in fact humans behind company social media pages.

Do: Monitor All Comments

Sometimes negative comments can lead to other negative comments. For example, if there is an issue with an institution’s online banking system, there may be one initial comment that you have addressed that has spawned additional comments from other customers. While you may have already addressed the issue in your response to the original comment, those other customers still expect a personal response or they wouldn’t have posted in the first place. You may also find that you have some loyal brand champions who will defend the brand in times of criticism, and that’s something no amount of money can buy.

Don’t: Give a Generic Response

Customers want to receive the same personal attention they would expect if walking in a branch. And while that’s not always possible for privacy reasons, it is possible to respond with a personal tone and mention the commenter’s name. For example: “Hi Amy, we’re sorry to hear you’re having trouble accessing your account. Give us a call at 555-5555 so we can resolve that issue quickly.” If the specific issue is mentioned and the customer feels like someone actually understands their frustration, they are more likely to be satisfied with the outcome.

Do: Have an Action Plan for Difficult Cases

Unfortunately, sometimes issues can’t be resolved quickly via social media. Or perhaps the comment involves threatening legal action. At that point, it’s best not to respond directly to the post but rather follow the action plan that put in place. This plan should include:

  • Criteria for what qualifies as needing escalation
  • Who to contact when legal action is threatened (i.e. senior management or the attorney directly)
  • What to do in the case of illegal activity
  • Any relevant HR issues if a company employee is mentioned
  • Police if there is an accusation of crime

Don’t: Let Negative Comments Scare You

For some institutions, the idea of negative comments is enough to deter them from using social media altogether. Negative comments are part of the being on social media, but they don’t have to be the main focus of the page. By responding swiftly and letting your followers know that someone is listening, there is opportunity to educate, inform, and resolve issues before they ever make it into the branch or on the phones. For some, just being heard and getting a response is enough to resolve the issue.

Social media is evolving every day, and it’s not going anywhere. Negative comments happen to everyone, and handling them with transparency and speed is a great way to turn an angry customer into a loyal brand advocate. Click here to see what some of the top financial institutions are doing right on social media.

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