Source: Tod Maffin, The Globe and Mail

Sooner or later, someone is going to have a bad experience with your business and they’re going to go on social media and complain about it, wrote Tod Maffin in an article for The Globe and Mail. The worst thing a company can do at this point is ignore the comment or delete it entirely.

The following is Maffin’s five-step SWARM Methodology for addressing customer complaints over social media and converting unhappy customers into brand advocates.

S – Speak like a human.

When addressing a complaint over social media, Maffin writes that company’s often make the mistake of being overly formal and communicating like an organization, instead of a human being. Using words like “I” and “me” helps convey your personal interest in the complaint better than words like “we” and “us.”

W – Win/Win.

People most often complain on social media because they want something to change and Maffin says the easiest way to address the complainer is to give them a “win.” This can be as simple as promising to look into the situation and see if the issue they were complaining about has improved. “Do something more than listen,” Maffin writes. “Take action, and tell them what the action you’re taking is.”

A – Avoid a public battle.

The biggest mistake a company can make when addressing an online complaint, according to Maffin, is keeping the conversation going on a public channel like Facebook or Twitter. Once the issue has been identified and you’ve publicly reached out to the unhappy customer, take the rest of the conversation offline. The easiest way to do this is to ask the person to email you the details.

R – Right the wrongs.

Sometimes, in the heat of the moment, people exaggerate the issue and what was a simple dispute can become, in their mind, a nearly criminal action. Once you’ve worked out the details with the customer, Maffin says it’s important to go back and correct the comment on social media if the customer claimed something that was untrue. Google never forgets and you don’t want a false, and rectified, claim to tarnish your image.

M – Make friends.

The final, and possibly most important step, is to turn the unhappy customer into an advocate. Maffin suggests following up with the customer in a few months to see if the situation has changed and consider offering them a discount to return to your business.