As more consumers are using social media as their channel to voice complaints about businesses, it is important that businesses provide great customer service through the various social media platforms they use. Local businesses, especially, can benefit from timely customer service support on social media.

I experienced a huge social media mishap with Snapchat. My account was hacked, and I had no way of logging into my account since the hacker changed all of my login information. After moments of panic, I tried to reach out to Snapchat for help. The only forms of communication I could find for Snapchat were an electronic form to submit online as well as a Twitter account for Snapchat Support that I could directly message.

Though using these two forms of communication was not helpful (a whole other story that I won’t dive into), I found another way to get the company’s attention quickly and get the help I needed in under 30 minutes.

I took to Twitter publicly and called out Snapchat for their poor customer service. I hated having to do that, but after two days of no help from the company, I felt it was necessary. After 11 minutes, Snapchat responded to my tweets and offered help through a direct message. Though I was frustrated with Snapchat for not helping prior to my public complaints, I was relieved and satisfied that the company responded so quickly and fixed my problem shortly after my tweets were sent out.

Negative comments on social media from customers are inevitable, especially with the millennial generation. The way a local business handles customer support on social media can make or break its reputation in the town, city, or state where it is located. For example, if a customer gets food poisoning from a local deli and they take to social media to vent about their experience, the way that deli handles the situation on social media will determine not only if that customer comes back but also if anyone who may have heard the customer’s rants comes back as well.

Here are a few guidelines that local businesses should follow to stay proactive and avoid a customer service crisis on social media:

Be accessible on social media. The easier it is for a customer to contact your business through social media, the less likely they will publicly complain to all of their followers about it. Make it easy for a customer to direct message you through Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, or whatever other social media platforms your business is on, and let your customers know that your business is available to talk with them there.

Be quick with responses to all social media messages. You should be engaged and responsive with not only positive comments or questions about your business but also with negative comments or complaints. Whoever controls the social media for your business should have notifications on and be readily available to handle anything a customer may say about the business. The faster the response time, the happier the customer, and the less likely they are to express their negative feelings online.

Follow up with upset customers. In my Snapchat situation, I appreciated how even after the problem was fixed, the company took the time to DM me asking if I needed anything else. It made me less angry with the situation as a whole, and I’m still using their service, even though I was frustrated with how they handled it in the beginning. As a local business owner, relationships with customers are a big part of keeping the business alive and thriving. Always follow up after you have handled a situation, showing the customer know you care.

Upset customers on social media are inevitable, but how small businesses handle these comments is what's important. Being accessible, timely, and sympathetic on all social accounts will help your local business maintain good relationships with upset customers.
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