No one likes having their work trashed, or themselves vilified or ridiculed.
It’s hard enough to deal with it on a one-to-one basis or in a group situation – especially when derogatory comments or outright accusations are at very least unjustified.
But when it’s via social media platforms, it takes on a whole new dimension. It literally can go global; the eyes of the world drawn to what’s been posted.
The recipient will of course likely feel humiliated and/or violated and reflexively want to lash out to defend themselves.
But when it is aimed at you (or members of your team) in the context of a medical, aesthetics or wellness practice, extreme care must be taken about how it is dealt with – and especially as there is a big difference between being trolled and getting a bad review.
Cosmetic physician Dr X* tells SPA+CLINIC that being trolled is a daily fact of life for their business, and that they have learned not to take it to heart. Indeed, to ignore it.
“I realise when you’re not used to it, it can be very shocking. But as medical professionals we must learn how to (not) respond appropriately, or take it on board as a personal attack.
“You must block the trolls, or it will just encourage other trolls to join the thread,” Dr X says. “You must remember that trolls are bullies who thrive on the anonymity of a keypad/board.
“They have issues – perhaps they are resentful people who feel life has done them wrong and want to take down those they perceive as `luckier’ in various ways. They may have mental health issues. Or they may just thrive on inflicting pain on others.
“You can’t know what drives them so just block them and move on.”
However, when a disgruntled patient posts a negative review or other complaints re your services online, it’s time to take notice.
“Otherwise it could impact on your reputation and adversely affect other potential and existing patients’ perception of you and, so, your business.”
Dr X says that, however damning the post, “never, ever engage with the complainant online.
“You must take it offline and contact them personally to try to resolve the issue as well as to prevent escalating their negativity. If you can resolve the issue to their satisfaction (without accepting blame if you have done nothing wrong), you may convert them to your one of your biggest online and offline fans.
“That said, you need to ascertain if the person who has posted a bad review is actually a patient. If not, you should report them to entities such as Google and Facebook.”
Dr X* says if posts escalate to actual threats against the safe wellbeing of the practice and it’s staff, it’s time to alert the appropriate authorities, such as the police.
Carl Henderson, Social Media and Content Marketing Manager for Salesforce in the UK, says social media gives businesses direct, unmediated access to prospects and customers – but things obviously go wrong.
“For most companies, most of the time, social media offers a way to engage positively with customers and prospects,” he says.
“But, as in the offline world, you should be prepared to deal with unhappy customers on a regular basis.
“The good news is that by treating them right and following through on your promises, it is entirely possible to convert them into good, longterm advocates for your brand – so their amplified social voice will work in your favour again.”
He offers these tips:
- You can’t react if you don’t know. You have to be vigilant for all mentions of your company, people, products and brands. You can begin to do this with a service such as Google Alerts. However, to get more serious, you will need something like Salesforce Marketing Cloud’s Social Studio, which can monitor conversations that mention your brand in real-time and even give you a heads-up on the sentiment behind the words.
- Be quick to acknowledge. The reason many people post negative comments online is because they don’t think they’re being listened to, so they lash out. Some do this just to warn their friends off using what they believe to be a bad product. Others – the more social media savvy ones – will do it to hurt you and force you to pay attention. Speed is of the essence. Acknowledge the customer’s issue as quickly as possible before it snowballs and picks up other customers and prospects on the way. You do not necessarily need to have an immediate solution – an open, non-judgmental enquiry about exactly what happened will be enough to start the process of constructive engagement and open up an opportunity to turn a negative experience into a positive one. Of course, you’ll also need to follow this up with concrete actions.
- See it from their point of view. Too many companies begin the process of engaging with an irate customer by listing all the excuses for why it happened. These may be entirely true and legitimate. But the customer won’t care. All it looks like to them is that the company is trying to shift the blame away from itself. In social media, this can be a red rag to a bull. It is far better to begin every interaction from the viewpoint of the customer – what happened to them, what it meant and, ultimately, what can be done to make it right.
- Take it out of the spotlight. Social forums may not be the best place [especially for the medical industry] to actually resolve complex issues. And being in a public forum may make it hard for an angry customer to soften their stance. Offer to continue the conversation in an appropriate forum – whether that’s phone, email or an existing support forum online. This shouldn’t be an attempt to silence the critic; simply to help them where it makes sense. Also, “take it out of the spotlight” doesn’t mean “delete”. Better for people to see your constructive response to the negative comment [if that is appropriate for a medical business – check with your insurer and/or legal counsel] than get buried in messages accusing you of curating out all the negative social media comments.
- Keep track. The issue might have been resolved, but that doesn’t mean the commenter has gone away. Whether they leave you with a good or bad taste in their mouth, it’s likely that they’ll interact with your brand in some capacity again. A Social Customer Service tool can help you keep track of past touch points with customers so that if they do interact with your brand again, you know and understand their history. Customers who have a negative experience who lash out on social media can also become just as outspoken advocates on social if you treat them well.
- Talk the talk and walk the wall. It’s all well and good to acknowledge a problem, but if you don’t follow up with concrete actions you’re going to end up back where you started and potentially upset your disgruntled patient even more. Once you’ve got a conversation going with them out of the spotlight, make sure you understand the problem and outline what the next steps will be to fix it.
* Dr X is a compilation of cosmetic medical doctors who asked not to be identified, given the sensitive nature of the topic and its potential impact on their patients and businesses