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Six ways to respond when a customer complains on your social media

How you respond to online criticism or negative feedback can cause your brand to blossom or die on the vine. Although you may be tempted to snap back or be negative, the best response is to understand that the biggest recipient of the message you are sending isn't the customer who criticized, it is all those who will see how you handled it. Here are some tips to help you navigate this scenario:

1. Respond quickly and be personal. Use the customer's name in a conversational and pleasant tone. This is not the time to hide your head in the sand like an ostrich. You want to quickly acknowledge their complaint and let them know you are looking into it.

2. When it's a legitimate complaint, own up to it and acknowledge if a mistake was made or you didn't put your best foot forward. People are generally understanding when you own up to an issue and seek to remedy it.

3. Move the conversation offline. Politely let the person know via the original post that you will be responding to their inbox for additional correspondence.

4. Get out of your feelings and don't take it personally. Responding aggressively and negatively is a major red flag that you're not the kind of business that respects your customers and any issues they may have. Trust me - all eyes are on how you respond.

5. Be sure to follow up with the complaining customer offline just as promised. And although you're tempted, as long they aren't spewing curse words, being rude or disrespectful, do, don't remove the social media complaint as it may backfire. Use it as a moment to demonstrate your company's classy way of managing issues and complaints. Leave a good impression on those watching from the sidelines.

6. Be prepared in advance of any issues. Have your policy in writing on how you will respond not if, but when it happens. Then follow those level-headed steps.

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