Ask the experts

5 ways to deal with - and reduce - complaints on social media

By Tom Harvey

- Last updated on GMT

Handling social media complaints

Related tags: Social media, Restaurants

Tom Harvey, new client director at drinks and hospitality marketing agency YesMore, on how to effectively handle complaints on social media.

If you’ve ever managed social accounts for a hospitality business you’ll know how easily they can become overrun with customer complaints, queries and problems - particularly if your business has lots of locations. So how can you reduce customer complaints on these channels, manage the process more efficiently and get more of your marketing budget spent on... well... marketing?

1. Assess and categorise the complaints you receive 
The range and type of complaints on social media can be extreme. It’s not uncommon for you to log on in the morning and see a customer post asking if you can turn the air conditioning down in Barnet - while the very next tweet says something like “I’ve just been racially abused by one of your staff”. The difference is vast and it goes without saying that you need to customise your responses to each one. Some customers tweet you with a serious matter, some out of genuine disappointment at bad service, whilst others can complain in the hope of a freebie. Smaller issues are clearly best dealt with in the venue at the time - while more serious complaints can get lost in the multi-stage process of communicating the issue to the right person. It’s important to start changing the process of complaints overall, in order to make sure they are dealt with in the most efficient way - which means setting up or tweaking existing systems to encourage customers to complain elsewhere. Most importantly in our opinion at YesMore, never reward a complaint with free stuff - unless you want to go down that rabbit hole forever.

2. Encourage customers to resolve small issues right there in the venue
These days, we’re seeing more complaints in the genre of: “just got served a beer in a warm glass” or “my food is cold”. The first step in reducing the number of these complaints is to reply publicly, and ask about their interaction in the venue at the time. Something like “Oh no, did you speak to the waiter? They’re best placed to sort this out for you immediately”. Visibly, public replies of this sort will impact on future complaint levels, as future customers will see that the complaint didn’t result in vouchers or a free lunch, for example. You can also encourage complaints at the time by ensuring teams on the ground are asking customers how everything is during and after their meal, providing simple feedback forms with the bill, etc.

3. Signpost to how (outside of social media) to make a more serious complaint
More serious complaints are also often not well handled on social channels - but for different reasons. Complaints of this nature will end up passing through several members of staff in order to get to the person that can resolve them. It’s inefficient, things get lost along the way and ultimately, the customer doesn’t get the resolution they need. Here, you need to clearly signpost where and how customers can complain in order to receive a fast and appropriate response. That is to say, counter intuitively - you need to make it easier to complain on other, more appropriate channels. This place needs to be off social media, ideally a short and quick contact form via your site that directs a complaint to perhaps the manager and to head office. This should genuinely be the quickest and easiest way to resolve a complaint so when you direct someone to here from social media you’re confident they’ll get a suitable resolve within an understandable time frame (and communicate the expected response time to the customer). Don’t just create this form, but publicise it across all channels. You can signpost to this form in your bio, in a pinned post at the top of your profile, on your site or in automated messages such as follow up emails after an online reservation.

4. Automate the answering of frequently asked questions - and make them easy to find
For most hospitality brands there are a few regular questions that come up time and again: nutritional information, student discount, job applications, charity requests. All of these can be answered from a FAQ page. The problem is not many people read the FAQ page. But what you can do is invest a little time in setting up a chat bot, or navigation in your site that helps people find these answers more easily themselves. The more you can automate and answer, the more time you’ll save your customer, and your social media manager, and your business as a whole - all of which saves money and time to spend on marketing.

5. Be positive - praise social engagement and reactions to your own marketing
It sounds strange, but by choosing a particular way of dealing with customer issues and being consistent with it, over time your your audience will become used to engaging with you in a more positive way. It’s very easy to spend 15 minutes drafting a succinct reply to a minor niggle from a customer, only to only ‘like’ a really positive message praising your staff for doing a great job. So get into the habit of really capitalising, sharing and making the most of on the positive things people share with you, go out of your way to reward the excellent staff member who received praise on social media, tell the customer you did that and then watch the cycle improve. Over the past year doing this for Carluccio’s we’ve seen a dramatic reduction of customer complaints a - we now spend more time on marketing their brand as a result.

YesMore Agency​ offers social media marketing strategy, ROI-driven campaign development and social media management for bars, restaurants and drinks brands.

Related topics: People

Related news

Spotlight

Follow us

Hospitality Guides

View more

Featured Suppliers

All suppliers