As discussed in our last blog, the messages customers create and share have now been described as user-generated content (UGC). UGC could be described as word-of-mouth, amplified. As with traditional word-of-mouth, what’s being said or created isn’t always positive, so here are some actions we’d recommend you consider if you experience negative UGC (which could be described as complaints amplified):

  1. Be aware: you can’t shape a conversation or make amends for something you are not aware of. As part of your online engagement plan, make sure you have a nominated person, and time set, to check each platform regularly so that you can see opinions that are being expressed. As most social media platforms have notification settings, you can set reminders for this activity as the last thing you want to be seen to be doing is ignoring the complaint completely.
  2. Stand in their shoes: if the user has resorted to social media or a rating platform to comment on the brand, they are likely to be feeling frustrated in their attempts to discuss their issue directly with you. They may have reached out and had no response. We’d recommend that you, therefore, start by pausing and considering how to acknowledge that frustration.  By focusing on calming them you are more likely to get a more rational response to your explanation. They will feel heard. As the brand, we may be tempted to make the interaction a private one as quickly as possible.  But this isn’t necessarily how they feel, as a consumer. They don’t want another instruction or automated response. Additionally, it doesn’t allow other brand followers to see how you deal with a complaint. Your transparent, authentic response may improve not only your relationship with the complainant but also the others who see it. 
  3. Respond with your brand values in mind: if you value honesty and customer feedback, start there. Thank them for taking the time to share their experience with you. Apologise if the direct communication channels failed. Investigate if the claims need further examination. You don’t have to admit you are in the wrong to make the consumer feel seen and appreciated. If you were in the wrong, apologise and explain what you have done to prevent a repetition of the issue. If practical, make an offer to rectify the situation.
  4. Recognise there may be “the one”: on a rare occasion, there may be an unreasonable complainant making false accusations. If you have tried your best to correct the perceptions and re-establish the truth to no avail, then as a last resort we’d recommend you block or report the person. In this way, you are indicating that their bad behaviour is not tolerated and also ensure the inaccuracies are no longer reflected on the platform. 

Only when negative UGS is ignored or dealt with insensitively does it have the potential to escalate and do long term harm to the brand. Engaging regularly with your social media platforms is a priority. It will keep you aware, allow you to take corrective action timeously and so build trust with your followers and customers.