Thu | Dec 8, 2016

Managing customers who bully you on social media

Published:Sunday | November 2, 2014 | 12:00 AM

Yaneek Page, Business Contributor

Question: I
really liked your article 'Cashing in on Social Media', but I wish you had also spoken about the downside of social media when you have dishonest customers. For example, there are free-loading customers who complain in the name of customer service when all they really want is to use your service for free, even when the service is exceptional. We just had a customer go to our Facebook and post a single-star rating with a negative review just because we did not give her the service for free when she complained. Mind you, her complaint was a total fake. Now, we can only reply to the rating, but we can't remove it, so it drags down our overall customer star rating, which was 4.5 stars before her review. Now it's only 3.5 stars.

- Simon

BUSINESSWISE: You're right. Although social media is among the most powerful forms of marketing ever, and is typically great for business, there are major downsides.

Before I get into those drawbacks, let me tell you how to manage negative customer ratings on your Facebook page immediately because negative ratings can do major harm to your business every minute they remain published.

For those who may not be aware, in November 2013, Facebook changed the placement of its five-star rating system from the side of the page to position it directly underneath the company's name.

This prominent placement catches the attention of viewers once they land on the page. They can also click on the rating to see the persons who rated the company and details of their reviews.

It's very helpful for the public in assessing the quality of the business and the service it delivers but only if those reviews are real and unbiased, and right now Facebook doesn't verify them.

A bad review may turn off existing and potential customers, especially if there are very few reviews to begin with, so it stands out prominently, which is precisely the case for your business.

To fix the problem, you can either remove the star ratings feature or ask your clients to post reviews and hope that they post enough to increase your overall rating to where it was before.

Unfortunately, in removing the star ratings and reviews you will delete both negative and positive reviews, prevent people from 'checking in', and hide the map to your location.

REMOVING REVIEWS

You can remove negative ratings from your business Facebook page.

Scroll to the top of your page. Look for and click on 'Settings', located at the top left hand side of your page. Then click on 'Page info'. Look for 'Address', and beneath that you should see 'Map location' and a map locating your business. Uncheck the box under the map that says 'Show map check-ins and star ratings on the page'. That's it.

I've spent a bit of time on Facebook because that's the primary site you use like most local businesses.

However, as I noted earlier, social media in general has many downsides, for example, the substantial time and resources it takes to manage them effectively and the limited control users have since their accounts are operated solely at the privilege and discretion of the social media sites.

The constantly changing rules, terms, and interface can make them unpredictable and difficult to master and plan around.

Additionally, the number of social media sites and their different nuances is often overwhelming, especially for small businesses that don't have a dedicated marketing department, let alone social media specialists.

And, most important, social media provides a powerful platform that is vulnerable to abuse by customers and others who can coordinate and launch a slew of attacks on businesses, resulting in negative publicity, brand damage, and even customer boycotts.

Some well-known companies have suffered this fate.

FIVE CONTROL TIPS

In addition to removing features such as ratings and reviews to manage customer bullies, there are a number of strategies businesses can employ:

1. The most important strategy is social media monitoring, which is listening to what is being said about your business online. Google alerts, sprout social, hootsuite, and tweetdeck are a few of the many tools available online that can monitor your mentions.

2. Quickly answering questions and responding to comments and complaints is also important. Some social media experts will tell you not to delete complaints but instead address them head-on so that the public can see that your business is authentic, customer-focused, and responsive.

3. Try to take the discussion offline and never argue with customers online. Invite them to send you their contact details so someone can contact them immediately regarding their complaint - and make every effort to resolve the issue and recover their business.

4. Don't tolerate abuse. If customers are shouting and cursing, let them know you can't assist until they have calmed down. Giving in to abuse is stressful for your staff and unhealthy for business.

5. Solve customer problems quickly, don't give them empty 'sweet talk', and be ready to make concessions where required, but avoid overcompensation.

Excessive compensation can be counterproductive, cost the company more, and encourage further bullying, especially if the customers broadcast that they got a windfall off their public complaint.

One love!

Yaneek Page is an entrepreneur and trainer in entrepreneurship and workforce innovation . Email: yaneek.page@gmail.com Twitter: @yaneekpage Website: www.yaneekpage.com