In this episode of Real Estate Pros, Josh Cobb shares actionable tips and strategies for how to handle negative comments on social media, how to treat complaints on social media as more of an opportunity for your brand and why deleting a complaint or ignoring it could be the worst thing you can do.
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During our recent social media masterclass series, I cannot tell you the amount of real estate agents and principals who asked, “What should we do when someone posts a negative comment about us online?” Instinctively, I knew this was a challenge area for a lot of businesses but I didn’t expect it would be one of the leading questions on the minds of real estate professionals around Australia.
Negative comments on social media are a big problem for businesses. Not only do they put the perception of your brand at risk in the eyes of your fans and followers, but if handled poorly – or worse, swept under the carpet and ignored – you could do even more harm than the initial lashing by the disgruntled landlord, tenant, seller or buyer.
The rising trend in online reviews has given a megaphone to angry landlords, tenants, buyers and sellers, and they are not afraid to use it. The next steps you take are not only critical to the perception of your brand in the eyes of the person who’s complained about your company, but also the perception of everyone else on social media who has just witnessed the angry post.
Tip 1: Always respond
When a negative comment is made about your company, everyone is watching and eagerly awaiting the next move – and by everyone, I mean your other fans and followers, not just the person who posted the negative comment or review.
Simply deleting a comment will make it appear as though you are sweeping the issue under the rug, and it will only incite more anger from the person who posted the comment. This increases the chance they will post more comments or look for other places to name and shame your company.
If you don’t reply, it will appear to your followers that you don’t care about customer service, which can be equally damaging to the perception of your brand. Responding with genuine understanding for the person’s concern will demonstrate your willingness to resolve the issue.
Set up real-time email and mobile alerts for all of your social media profiles to notify you of any activity on those platforms – and respond quickly and appropriately.
Tip 2: Don’t Assume Everyone Works For You
This is a mistake I see so many businesses make who don’t have a well documented social media strategy.
You are a lot closer to your standard operating procedures than your clients and prospects, and although it might sometimes appear as though your staff were following standard policy or procedure, it might not seem so clear to the person making the complaint.
Standard operating procedures are critical in every business, however, it can cripple a business that allows them to get in the way of the customer experience.
Put yourself in the shoes of the other person for a moment. If your policies and procedures are compromising your core values, it’s time to revisit your policies and procedures. As management theorist Simon Sinek suggests, staff who feel as if they might lose their job by not following the rules either don’t know the core values of the business or they simply don’t trust their leader.
Instead of hiding behind company policy, turn upset customers into raving fans by improving their experience with your company.
Tip 3: Take the online, offline
By dealing with a complaint offline either by phone or in person, it can help you resolve matters one-on-one instead of a public slanging match on your social media profiles. It will appear to the upset customer that you are willing to make the extra effort in resolving their complaint – something that might help you with this next suggestion.
Tip 4: Kindly ask the person to remove the angry post
This is not something you can do straight out of the gate, nor something you should do online.
Once you’ve discussed the issue privately, ask your upset customer if you have resolved their concerns – this will confirm if there is any residual anger or other matters they would like to discuss. Once they are satisfied with how you have handled their complaint, let them know how important your online reputation is to you and kindly ask them if they would consider removing their angry post.
If you have done everything you can to resolve the issue, apologised if necessary and their trust in your brand has been somewhat restored, your upset customer will most likely be happy to remove their initial comment.
Step 5: The final straw
If you have taken every possible step to contact the upset customer and they are unresponsive to your requests or they are increasingly hostile, using threats or offensive language, banning the person from your social channels and deleting their comment is a last resort. And I must stress, last resort.
If you do decide to delete the comment and block the person from your social profiles, you ought to explain the situation to your fans and why you did what you did. No one should be subjected to online trolls and your staff – as well as your fans – will respect you for taking this action if required. Just remember to tell them why you did it.
In closing: I believe negative reviews are an opportunity to show your true brand colours and, if handled correctly, can be used as an opportunity to really impress your other followers. But, if responded too aggressively or, worse, not responded to at all, negative reviews can cost you more than just your online reputation. Chances are you have minimum standards in your business for things such as how long it should take for staff to respond to emails or return phone calls – it’s time to consider the minimum standards you have in place for social media. There are many businesses, probably even some of your competitors, who already subscribe to this mindset.
Unfortunately, there are also a small few who think social media is simply a distraction to their business – which is a valid point if you aren’t part of the growing number of real estate professionals seeing actual business outcomes from a documented social media marketing and customer service strategy.
People who complain about your brand on your social media channels are not the people you should be worried about. They’ve taken the time to voice their concern on a platform or channel where you can control what happens next. That is a powerful tool when you really think about it. It’s the people who are writing negative comments about you on channels you don’t own or platforms you can’t control that you should really be worried about.
The further we get into the age of social media, the less control we’ll all have over the conversations people have about our businesses online. So next time someone decides to leave a little comment about you on your company social media profiles, I want you to remember this podcast.
View the negative comment as an opportunity – a chance to showcase your brand values in a public forum – impress your social media followers and turn your critics into raving fans.
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