Moderating comments is thought of as a bit of an art form in the social media world. How to best communicate with the irate customer or dissatisfied user? I would encourage you to look back at my blog on reputation management for a list of key components to a social media crisis plan because many of those points are also relevant when moderating comments, and I’m not just talking about the negative ones.
I think the best way to understand how to moderate comments, is to look at what other brands are doing. Just go on Twitter and Facebook and read through a company’s few posts. You’ll, inevitably find some negative comments and their responses. Some good industries to look at for this are airlines; two of my favorite are KLM and JetBlue. Hotel chains and restaurants are good companies to look at, too. It’s like many thing in social media: learn from what your competition is doing and try to do it better.
One thing to think about when moderating comments: What you say and do online when addressing a user’s comments is as much for those folks reading it as it is for the person who wrote it. Other customers will see how you respond to others, and this will have an effect on how they view your brand. So, even if you are in a bad situation with no hope of helping or bringing understanding to the complainer, you can still help your brand by providing clear, calm words that instill confidence in the service you’re providing, as an arm of the customer service, for the brand.
So, now let’s take a look at a couple of practical examples of moderating comments. How should we moderate the following audience/customer comments if left on your organization’s Facebook page?
To a hotel:
“I am disgusted about the state of your restaurant on 1467 Justin Kings Way. Empty tables weren’t cleared and full of remains of meals. It makes me wonder what the state of your kitchen is?!!! Gross.”
Here is one way to respond:
“Hi, <insert first name here>. Thanks so much for reaching out to us and letting us know about this situation. What you’ve described is not up to our standards, and I’ve contacted the manager at that location to make sure he looks into it right away. If there’s anything else you’d like to share with us about your dining experience, please follow this link to a private chat: <insert link to customer feedback chat here>. We appreciate your feedback and look forward to having another opportunity to raise our level of service with you. Thank you. <am>”
What did here with my response:
- I let her know I heard her.
- I used a conversational and calm voice.
- I did not apologize, because I don’t know all of the facts, but…
- I let her know it is being looked into.
- I took the conversation out of the public view. This is especially important if there are more bad details for her to share. We would want to know about them, so they can be addressed, but not have them posted on Facebook.
- I reassured her that we would do better next time.
- I signed the post with my initials, letting her know she’s dealing with a real, trackable person. This can help establish or build some trust with the complaining customer.
Now, a negative comment doesn’t mean that a customer won’t come back. In fact, if that comment is handled well and the customer feels heard, you may end up with an even stronger brand loyalty from that customer. However, sometimes, there is nothing you can say or do that will take away a customer’s negative opinion. In those cases, it is even more important that you remain calm and take take the conversation off of social media, into a private conversation elsewhere.
Now, let’s look at an example of a comment made to a mainstream news network:
“Your reporting on the Middle East is biased in the extreme. You gave almost all your air time to spokespeople for the Israelis last night and there was no right to reply for the Palestinians. The conflict upsets me so much and your reporting of it, saddens me even more and makes me f**king furious.”
(We will assume the reporting was balanced, with equal time to both sides.)
Here is one way to respond:
“Hi, <insert first name here>. Covering the Middle East is a challenging thing, with all of the heightened emotions connected with this subject, but we at <insert channel ID here> always strive for excellence in our coverage with unbiased reporting. Looking back last night’s report, the coverage did give equal time to both sides. However, we will continue to listen to the feedback of our viewers to help us improve. We appreciate you taking the time to share your views with us.<am>”
Why I responded the way I did:
- You’ll notice I did not delete the comment due to the profanity. I’ll talk more about that in a moment.
- I recognized the emotion involved in his response due to the sensitive subject matter.
- I corrected, gently, his misstatement about biased, unequal coverage. If there are fact involved that are misstated, it is (usually) right and important to correct them.
- I let him know we are open to all feedback — even criticism — which helps the brand look more human.
- I thanked him. Remember, social media is made for conversations. Being able to respond to negative comments without loosing your head, shows brand strength.
Why didn’t I delete the comment due to the profanity, even though it was, essentially bleeped-out? Personally, I hate any use of all profanity, but in this case, the comment is made on Facebook. I think responding on Facebook is actually different than doing something like moderating a comment on your own discussion board or blog, and it’s important to try to not be too heavy-handed in such a public setting. Also, the profanity needs to be looked at in context, believe it or not. Is it threatening? No. Is it attacking? No. The user is just REALLY frustrated. He is creating his own brand for himself for other users to see in using the profanity. When you, as the moderator, respond with understanding and kindness — especially in the face of a comment that contains profanity — you create an opportunity to elevate your brand to the other readers.
What do you think? Would you have left the profanity, or deleted it? Do you consider Facebook and other social media sites to be different than your own personal blog or website discussion boards? Should there be different standards when moderating?