Responding to Public Complaints on Facebook

According to ComScore’s It’s A Social World report, “social networking sites now reach 82 percent of the world’s online population, representing 1.2 billion users around the world.”  Even if you don’t have a Facebook page or Twitter account, some of those users are talking about your organization and a few might be complaining.  How do you respond? Here are some actual postings taken from Yelp and TripAdvisor:

  • “This beautiful house was recently refurbished,and the amazing details of the woodwork just shine. The tour of the interior is well worth it, despite some rather fussy docents and lots of rules.”
  • “Rude pompous guides take you on way overpriced tour of an otherwise decent villa and art collection. Nothing out of ordinary other than the amazing rudeness and cluelessness of the tour guides. Tourists are being cramped in small corners, way to close to each other for comfort, admonished for any whisper, rushed from behind, even (unbelievable!) bullied.”
  • “Don’t know what the secret is to taking a tour but I have now tried 4 times and it there is always an enormous crowd of people ahead – which is great for them – but so far, I haven’t figured out what time to get there to ensure I get in.”

Airline Virgin America may offer an unexpected but successful approach, according to Carmine Gallo at Forbes:

On October 28, a technical snafu caused headaches for many Virgin America customers when the airline upgraded to a new Sabre reservation system. The migration of data on such a large scale is always a complex undertaking and the airline increased staff at its call center in anticipation of issues (other airlines had gone through the migration and also had problems that lasted for days and even weeks). Although Virgin wasn’t alone, passengers who experienced problems on their web site such as changing or canceling flights and making seat selections, vented on Twitter and Facebook.

Virgin America did not delete nor did it edit negative comments on its Facebook page and the airline made a commitment to answer each and every one of the complaints on Twitter—not with a generic post but with a personal response to each impacted passenger.

To Virgin America’s credit, the company stood by its social media mission—to “engage” its customers through social media channels. As the word implies, engagement includes two-way conversations, the good and the bad. According to Virgin America vice president of corporate communications, Abby Lunardini, “Since we were new to the industry (Virgin American launched in 2007) we wanted feedback. We’re always looking for ways to get better and we listen to our customers.” Lunardini told me that the Virgin America social media team—consisting of two full-time employees and volunteers in marketing and guest relations—sent more than 12,000 direct messages in the weeks that followed the upgrade to Sabre.

It’s great that they responded to individual posts but how did they do this with just two persons handling social media? (This is a company with hundreds of employees. And what do they mean by volunteers?)

So if community engagement is a priority for your museum or historic site, keep the “social” in social media by:

  1. monitoring your site’s name on the Internet using Google Alerts.
  2. using social media to maintain a discussion with your visitors, supporters, and members.  It doesn’t have to be constant and non-stop, but it does need to be meaningful and authentic.  And remember, social media isn’t just Facebook and Twitter; look also at Flickr, TripAdvisor, Yelp, and other places where people can post messages about you.  You’ll quickly learn the places where your visitors congregate.
  3. responding to posts, especially if it can quickly resolve a complaint or misunderstanding.  Negative reviews without a reply can encourage other readers to believe your organization doesn’t care about its visitors–they won’t know that you might be just unaware of the review.  Although it can be difficult to figure out how to reply, be persistent–there’s often a way.  For example, on TripAdvisor you need to have a free business account while on Twitter you tweet a reply using @username (as in @maxvanbalgooy).

“After Snafu, Virgin America Rebuilds Trust One Tweet at a Time” by Carmine Gallo