The Houston Press reported on its website earlier this week about a restaurant in Houston that decided to eject a customer for posting a negative tweet while she was still in the establishment. Apparently, a manager was checking out Twitter from his home Sunday night when he saw the tweet, since deleted, which called the restaurant’s bartender a “twerp.” (The tweet also included an inappropriate hashtag.) The manager called the restaurant to speak to the customer and told her to leave.

Responding to negative feedback on social media is always a delicate situation, especially when the feedback is not just negative but insulting, as this was. You can take the aggressive approach of this business owner, or you can handle it in a more professional manner. If you’d rather take the latter path, here are four ways to deal with negative comments:

1. Know what people are saying. You can’t respond if you don’t know what’s being said. Free tools such as NutshellMail and HootSuite can be used to track mentions of your Twitter handle, business, organization, or product name; posts on your Facebook Page; and reviews on Yelp. Google Alerts can also be used to scour the web for similar mentions.

2. Respond quickly and publicly.When you see a complaint posted on Twitter or to your Facebook Page, respond as quickly as possible with a polite “Sorry you’re having a problem…” message and a quick offer to help to help rectify the problem. This shows others you’re listening and that you want to make things better.

3. Don’t fight fire with fire. Whether or not you agree with the feedback received, don’t get defensive or start a debate with the person — especially if the feedback is irrational or insulting. One of the worst things you can do is broadcast a “he said, she said” discussion for all to see. Some things are just going to be a personal opinion and you can’t change that. Focus on what you can change:  the customer experience.

4. Take the conversation offline. If you get a response from the dissatisfied customer, offer to call the person directly, or use another method (such as email) to work out the issue outside of social media.

Have you ever dealt with a situation like this Houston restaurant did? How would you have dealt with it? Share your thoughts with us in the comments section below.

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