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How to Deal with Negative Comments on Social Media

19 Nov 2019
Sarah Marks

Brands across industries increasingly rely on social media to boost awareness, market products and services, and connect with customers. At the same time, social platforms offer a useful public forum for consumers who want their problems resolved. Unhappy customers no longer trust that they’ll get satisfaction from a phone call, they’re wary of being fobbed off, and they don’t want to wait for a reply to an email.

When something goes wrong, people want instant results, and they increasingly look for these results by posting negative feedback on social media. What may be surprising is that businesses don’t always respond to these posts. Best practices around customer service apply just as much to social media as any other platform, and dealing with complaints is vital to customer trust and retention.

Social media presents an opportunity for a two-way conversation with the customer. It connects your airport brand with existing and potential passengers. While customer service may not have been the intended function for these channels, many people who need answers and solutions regularly rely on them for customer service queries.

The importance of community and person-to-person communication is underlined by the fact that 63% of customers expect companies to offer customer service via their social media channels, and 90% of users have used social media as a way to communicate with a brand or business.

But what if your airport brand finds itself at the wrong end of negative comments? Is there anything you can do to actually turn the situation to your advantage?

Let’s take a look at some social media customer service best practices…

1. Make sure your response time is super quick

Customer’s don’t expect phone and email support to be available 24/7. They never have been, after all. But social media gives the impression of being ‘always on’, with 42% of consumers demanding a response within 60 minutes. It’s a good strategy to respond to complaints, inquiries and reviews as quickly as possible, even if the comments are positive. After all, it’s this immediacy that makes social media what it is.

If a customer doesn’t get a reply within what they consider to be a reasonable timeframe, they’re likely to share their bad experience with family and friends, escalate their concerns via another channel, or complain publicly where their first contact was by private message. Your airport’s response impacts on your future relationship with that customer, and negative press can potentially damage revenue. An unhappy customer will be less willing to either buy or recommend your products and services. 56% of customers who are unhappy with a brand’s customer service will never use that company again.

There’s also the pull of reputation when it comes to speedy replies. Facebook rewards response time. Each page shows a clear indication of the time the page owner generally takes to reply to messages. The platform only considers brands to be ‘very responsive’ (‘quick’) when they reply within 5 minutes around the clock.

It may not be feasible to employ someone to monitor your airport’s social accounts 24/7, but many businesses use programmable messenger bots (chatbots) and customisable, automated messages to stay in touch with consumers. These reassure the customer that their complaint is being heard, and can give them a timeframe in which to expect you to contact them.

On Twitter, people expect an immediate reply. Twitter, with its constant flow of new information, is even more immediate than Facebook. It’s about what’s happening right now, and conversations replicate texting in their rapid-flow style. 71% of Twitter users expect a brand to respond to their query within an hour of tweeting. If a query can’t be resolved within the Twitter character limit, you can prompt customers to use direct messages. This is a useful way to take the complaint out of the public view.

Whichever platform you’re using, the key is to listen to the customer, appreciate their experience and resolve the problem. Response time is vital to customer support and confidence, and in the right context, it can even help boost sales.

2. Understand which posts to resolve in public, and which to deal with privately

It’s impossible to please all of the people all of the time. It’s also important to develop processes that give your staff clear direction about how to handle customer service so they know how to deal with a complaint. Guidelines here will help you to present a consistent front, and this is useful in strengthening branding.

Your complaints strategy for social media should outline which sorts of comments you can resolve publicly, and which should be dealt with privately by moving to direct message, email or phone. Public comments may be posted as Facebook page posts or reviews, posts on Instagram or Tweets.

When a problem presented in a direct message requires research, let the customer know that you’ve got the message and will reply fully soon. Even if a message doesn’t seem to warrant a reply, because it isn’t a question, you should still reply. Timely acknowledgement is key.

On Facebook, the response-rate algorithms can only assess the last message in any conversation. Therefore, if you want to maintain a good response-rate figure on your page, it’s important to have the last word. If a customer finishes the conversation with a ‘thank you’, reply with a, ‘you’re welcome!’ In fact, a friendly tone is important in all messages, even if the customer is less cordial.


  • Use a friendly, polite opening line
  • Give clear direction for the next step
  • Embed a direct message link into your tweet so the customer can send longer comments. A CTA feature like this saves customers the effort of opening a direct message thread on their own.

When you’re creating a social media customer support process for your airport, you might want to consider the following questions:

  1. Who will review customer comments to assess what action should be taken?
  2. Do we already have some examples of positive and negative comments from previous customer service interactions that will help inform the strategy?
  3. How do we handle a negative interaction? Is it better to diffuse it, or to direct the customer to phone support?

3. Respond to everything!

Your customers want to be heard, and this means that your airport should respond to every post, every review, and even every check-in on social media. Since most of the comments on social media are in the public domain, there’s a real incentive for businesses to be attentive. While it may be impossible for a large international airport to reply to every single post due to the sheer number of comments, small airports can use replies to build community. You may decide to respond to good feedback with a simple ‘like’ and spend more time turning negative comments into positive experiences, but many large corporations dedicate entire teams to social media customer services. Just as no business would ignore a customer who walked into their store, no brand should ignore these online interactions.

Using the information you collected when answering the questions in section 2, develop a series of pre-written replies. This will streamline the process of social engagement and make your responses consistent. The key here is to ensure your replies make sense to the recipient. As with email, written words are sent without inflection or tone. Write your responses in a way that leaves no room for misunderstanding, and that cannot be construed as aggressive, defensive or sarcastic.

As with any interaction, personalisation is important. Reply to the customer as an individual, modifying scripted replies to accommodate the situation. While automated responses are vital in connecting with customers, if they read as though they’re automated, the customer won’t feel that their concerns are being dealt with. Sometimes mirroring words can make a customer feel heard. Use a structure like: “I understand that you are upset about (their complaint). We would like to talk to you on the phone to find out more about the situation so that we can resolve it for you. Please call us (insert number).”

4. Include a greeting and personalise with their name and yours

If the customer’s name is obvious from their social profile, be sure to use it in your greeting to add a personal touch. Humanise your own response by including the name of the team-member who is replying. This creates a two-way conversation that gives both sides accountability, makes the customer feel heard by another human, and allows the airport to see who dealt with the complaint in case of dispute. This also gives the customer a direct point of contact. If they want to speak on the phone, they may prefer to continue chatting to the same person.

5. Beat negativity with a positive attitude

When a customer posts a negative comment, don’t be tempted to defend your airport. Always meet negativity with a positive response. The customer is, after all, always right, and this is especially pertinent online where any complaint has a much wider potential reach. Positive replies can help garner support from customers who are loyal to your brand. If complaints are made by a single unhappy follower, and these are creating a negative buzz for the company, brand advocates and fans are likely to rally round if you remain positive.

It may be worth designing some templates for positive responses so they’re ready to use if and when this happens. You can do this by researching previous negative comments, reviews and emails and creating several possible positive replies to each. The main thing is to demonstrate that you value the customer and care about resolving their problem, even if the conversation began badly for you.

Empathy is also important in social media replies. In some instances, showing empathy with the person who has had a problem, and resolving their complaint empathically, can be the difference between a 1-star and a 5-star review.

6. Use tools to monitor your airport’s social media customer service

Whether you’re new to social media or your airport has used social platforms for a long time, the team member who moderates incoming social media customer service should be given the same training and tools that traditional customer service representatives receive.

Tools such as Hootsuite, Buffer, Sparkcentral and Mention are designed to monitor customer service activity on platforms including Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. They offer the capability to listen to customers across multiple platforms, meaning that a single customer service representative or team can monitor accounts. You can take advantage of the social media training that is often included with these tools.

You will also be able to add streams that show search results for your brand name, meaning you can respond to questions and issues where your airport is not directly mentioned (with an @) or tagged. Social media never closes, but these tools can notify you about out-of-hours engagement via a text or app.

Rezcomm partners with airports that serve a quarter of a billion passengers worldwide. If you want to know more about how our integrated ominchannel solutions can help support customer service and customer relationships for your airport passengers, contact us for a chat today.