Responding to customers online

These days, customers and potential customers are increasingly turning to social media and digital channels to feedback to businesses about their good - or bad - customer experience. At some point, almost every business - no matter how small or large - will encounter negative sentiment or comments online. In this guide, we’ll show you how to discover positive or negative comments or reviews, teach you how to respond to them, and demonstrate how to moderate your online pages and communities.

Social Management Tools - keeping your ear to the ground

If you have multiple branches, or receive engagements from a large audience, then simply monitoring your mentions on social regularly - for example on Twitter - may not be enough. Social management tools are online softwares, available in app or online, which you can use to track mentions of your brand, and respond to them in an organised manner. In this section, we compared some popular listening tools which you could subscribe to.

If you answer yes to three or more of the following, you may want to consider investing in a tool:

  • Do you receive multiple enquiries or mentions daily via social media?
  • Do you find it difficult to keep track of these, or sometimes find that you don’t discover them until too late?
  • Do you want to know what people are saying about your brand, and see public posts where you haven’t been tagged?
  • Are there multiple people managing your social media accounts?
  • Do you want to be able to easily track hashtags relating to your brand?
  • Do you forget to post things frequently?
  • Are you too busy to post on social media all the time?
  • Would you benefit from seeing an automated report of how your social media channels are performing, growing, and engaging your audience?

Trip Advisor / TrustPilot Reviews

TripAdvisor is an extremely important channel for hospitality businesses to monitor and respond to user reviews, with many customers likely to check this site before visiting a new place.

Trustpilot is a growing online community for users to rate online businesses on their customer service experience. Businesses can respond to reviews here, too - so it would be worthwhile setting up a free profile to monitor and respond to feedback if this is your business type.

You should make sure you’re monitoring these reviews at least twice a week, in order to keep up to date.

If a customer had a negative experience, your handling of the matter will be visible to other potential customers, and if you handle it the right way, your reputation could be boosted.

Additionally, if a customer appears to be making an unsubstantiated claim about your business, this is your opportunity to set the record straight - however, you must not appear aggressive or overly defensive while doing so.

For example:

For example, if somebody has complained about an experience they had with your business, a simple response will show that you appreciate their feedback and are working to ensure it doesn’t happen again. The depth of your response can be tailored accordingly.

Here are some examples:

On the flip side, positive reviews which are well received and acknowledged is a nice way to build up relationships with the community.

How to reply to negative comments

As a business owner, it can be easy to get swept up in a conversation with a user complaining about your service, and it is natural to want to be defensive.

However, posting overly defensive replies can be detrimental to a business - sometimes, it's better to assure the customer that their complaints have been taken on board to neutralise the conversation.

Check out how larger companies within your industry handle negative reactions on social media to check industry best practice.

Replying quickly is really important, but at the same time, make sure you get your facts straight before you jump ahead to reply. Consider double checking your company policies, or asking team members if they witnessed the incident first. See our response flow chart below for best practice advice on this.

Taking the conversation to the private eye

If a negative comment is received and you would like further feedback, clarification, or to continue the conversation, the best place to do so is away from the public eye. There are two methods of doing this:

1. Sending the user a public reply, asking them to send photos/further feedback/contact details to a generic email address i.e.

2. Sending the user a Direct Message and having the conversation here. Remember, they could screenshot anything you say - so stay calm and follow your guidelines.

FAQ Documents - best in a Spreadsheet or Google Sheet

It’s a great idea to build up a bank of standard responses which you can send, saving time and making sure you are consistent. One of the ways to do this is to create an FAQ Document.

These are a brilliant resource for saving time, making sure different team members feel equipped for most situations, and keeping consistent. These documents should be easily accessible to you and your team, and updated every time a new response comes in which isn’t covered.

Response Flow-chart

Download this flow chart and use it to inform how in-depth your response should be to comments which come in via social media. It will help you decide what the best approach to take should be, and you can even create templated responses for each final outcome.

Community Guidelines or House Rules

You should consider putting a Community Guideline document on your Facebook page. You can post this under the Notes section on your profile, found in the vertical list of tabs under your profile picture.

These guidelines are crucial for communicating to users posting on your page - whether as a post, or comment - what they are allowed and not allowed to do. This means that if an abusive member needs to be warned, or even banned from posting, you can refer back to the community guidelines.

Example guidelines to tailor to your business:

We want to make sure that our page is a safe place for all of our customers and followers.  To achieve this, we ask that you abide by our Community Guidelines when using our Page.

  1. Please avoid using inappropriate language and to be respectful towards one another.
  2. We ask that you use common sense when posting on our Facebook Fan Page and not to post anything that may be offensive or harmful to others.  In particular, you must not post anything that:
  • Infringes any person’s legal rights, including (without limitation) any right of privacy(i.e. personal image rights);
  • Is untrue, defamatory, infringing, abusive, obscene, indecent, deceptive, threatening, harassing, misleading or unlawful;
  • Contains any code, application, software or material protected by intellectual property laws or contains any malicious code including any programs that may damage or interfere with the normal operation of another person’s computer or which contains any form of virus or malware;
  • Is commercial in nature and advertises any product, service, or good other than ours, unless you have obtained prior consent
  • Does not comply with Facebook’s Terms of Service, which can be read here.

Breaking any of the above rules may result in your Facebook account being banned from following and/or posting any further content on our Facebook Fan Page. We reserve the right to remove any content that we consider (in our sole discretion) breaches these rules or is otherwise inappropriate.

Your feedback is important to us and we do not generally remove posts that express constructive criticism or concerns about our business, provided that such posts do not breach our guidelines.

Response Times

How quickly you respond to messages on Facebook messenger dictates your response-time rating. A positive response time will enhance your business’s reputation.

Facebook will show to page visitors how long you take on average to respond to users, and rate your response time.

On Twitter, users will be able to see how long you took to publicly respond to a mention, based on the time stamps of the original tweet and response.

In order to turn on the ‘very responsive’ badge on Facebook, businesses must be responding to 90% of messages with an average response time of 15 minutes.

Having the last word in a conversation is key. Even if you have resolved and ended a conversation, Facebook will mark down your response time if you are not the last to respond in a conversation. Make sure you always reply last to prevent this!

Response time is not calculated on Facebook comments, only on private messages.

Some business owners will have the Facebook Page Manager app on their phone to ensure they never miss a notification - if you don’t want to do this, make sure you log on throughout the day (within business hours!) to ensure you are staying on top of incoming queries. Always check in at the start and end of the day, too.

Auto Responses on Facebook Messenger

Firstly, ensure you have set your office or working hours on Facebook, in the About section. This means that users will know when you are active or not.

When you are inactive or away, you can set up an Auto Response function to reply to any messages until you return.

For example, this could say:

This will ensure your response time does not suffer from any enquiries left unanswered overnight, or when you're away.

To set this up, simply:

Click Settings at the top of your Page

Click Settings at the top of your Page

Click Messaging in the left column

Click Messaging in the left column

Toggle instant replies to on

Toggle instant replies to on

To change your instant reply message, click Change, update the message and click Save

To change your instant reply message, click Change, update the message and click Save

Once you’ve done this…

You will be ready to handle any situation that comes your way, and show your staff managing the profiles how they can respond with confidence to a wide range of situations! Quick fixes such as the ones above, and establishing proper processes, will mean you’re equipped for anything that comes your way.

No business is immune in this day and age to scrutiny on social media; it’s in people’s nature to complain from time to time. The real value for your business lies in how you respond: if other users can see you are patient, reasonable, and caring, then you will be able to resolve situations without having your reputation damaged any further.

If you are looking to elevate your business's digital presence, our leading DigitalBoost programme can help. Check out the wide range of free resources including guides & tutorials, and learn how you could benefit from up to 21 hours of expert 1:1 support here.

Good luck, and let us know how you get on! We love hearing from our users on social - so if you have any feedback, or want to tell us how this article helped you, please tweet us at @bgateway or find us on Facebook or LinkedIn.