7 ways to handle negative comments on social sites

Just last week, I was monitoring a Facebook page for a nonprofit organization I freelance for here in Janesville and I came across a negative comment. I sent the comment to them and asked for a response. I was a little taken back by their reply. They wanted it deleted immediately. This is not the best way to go. Obviously the person took the time to post their suggestion in the hopes of change or a response. If you delete and ignore, you could lose the customer and it may damage your online brand reputation.

If your hospital is using social media sites, chances are you’ve experienced not-so-great comments from patients and/or customers. All health care organizations do. The patient or customer could have a simple complaint, or be so upset he/or she has gone on the offensive, making sure you and the rest of your fan-base knows they’re upset.

The good news is, this is an opportunity to activate your service recovery policy and take the necessary steps to retain the disgruntled patient. It’s also a time to protect your brand and image.

Here are 7 things to consider:

1) Respond quickly and monitor often

It’s important the complaints and issues your fans post on your social media sites are addressed. Inactivity on your part will appear like you’re trying to ignore the issue and sweep under the rug. Being unresponsive does nothing more than generate more negativity. Furthermore, the rest of your online community can read the post. If you don’t reply, it appears as though you are unconcerned with customer support, which can be detrimental to your reputation. By monitoring your Twitter feed or Facebook posts, you’ll see if people are reacting negatively and how seriously they are reacting.

A response that illustrates respect and understanding for patients’ concerns will indicate your intention to rectify any problems. Be honest. People always appreciate the truth and it builds trust.

Scott and White Healthcare in Texas demonstrates quick responses with a consistent message. They immediately direct the patient to service recovery within hours of the post.

2) Be understanding and demonstrate compassion

Take a step back and put yourself in the patient’s shoes. This can go a long way in understanding why he or she is frustrated. It may not be your hospital’s fault. Whether or not the fault lies on your end, a simple apology will go a long way in keeping the patient and positive word of mouth. Instead of trying to figure out who to blame, turn upset fans into happy patients by making their experience better.

Always remember, if you’re going to answer a comment, don’t respond in anger or frustration. Instead, put on your customer service hat and see what you can do to fix the problem. Use kind words and demonstrate compassion in your tone.

Even a negative post can be a good thing, as long as the last comment is positive. Your reputation among your community will soar when they see how well you take care of your patients.

3) Contact the person privately

It’s best to respond to the original comment and then tell them you will direct message them as a follow up. The goal here is to get them off the public forum board and follow through with service recovery behind closed doors to protect their privacy. Simply thank them for commenting, extend a sincere apology and let them know you’re willing to make it right. Whether that’s offering the number of a manager’s direct phone line or customer service department–moving the conversation from public to private allows you to protect their privacy and adhere to HIPPA regulations.

However, offering things like direct lines and special treatment publicly could lead to issues, so it’s best to keep those specific practices off the public wall or feed.

4) Don’t remove the post unless you must

As a general rule, you should not remove negative posts. Do know that not everyone is going to have a glowing review of your hospital. Social media users know this, and if they see nothing but positive comments, they’ll assume your hospital is deleting the bad comments.

By addressing the issue publicly, you show fans that you’re listening and willing to engage in a two-way conversation, even if it might be uncomfortable. It also allows you to re-frame the conversation and tell your side of the story.

On the same token, you have the right to take off negative comments as well. Simply tell them, “Since we’d like to protect your privacy, we ask that you contact us confidentially via direct mail or email.”

Zappos responds quickly with understanding and a desire to create a better experience for their fan who is waiting on a product. The helpful attitude effectively neutralizes any poor reflection on Zappos.

5) Post a disclaimer policy

It may seem like overkill, but in the spirit of being open and honest, a disclaimer policy states that the views expressed on the social site are not the views of your hospital and that you reserve the right delete any inappropriate comments.

Both Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital and Fort Healthcare in Fort Atkinson have good examples of a properly written Facebook disclaimers.

6) Block them if you have to

If the patient is unreceptive to your customer service attempts, seem hostile and only active in your community to start arguments, banning the individual is a last-resort option. And anyone being inappropriate against your staff or fans is never OK. Your staff and your fans don’t deserve to be subjected to the abuse.

7) Move on

Once you’ve acknowledged the patient and/or customer, apologized and attempted to repair any damage, it’s time to let it go and move ahead. Don’t dwell on the negativity. It doesn’t do any good to beat yourself up. If anything, you should be excited your online community is using your social sites to ask questions and address concerns. It means they are beginning to trust you and appreciate your presence online.

What’s been your experience? How have you and your hospital handled complaints from upset fans on your sites in the past? What has worked? What hasn’t? Join the conversation below.

Follow me @trishskram or Trish Skram “PR Gal”

Leave a Reply