Social Media Resolutions Are About More Than the Apology


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In today’s social media landscape, it’s no longer enough to simply apologize when receiving a customer complaint. In fact, apologies are merely the first step in a much larger process. As social constructs have taught us, what good is an apology without a sincere intent to change what caused the need for an apology in the first place?

When your brand receives a complaint via social media, it’s imperative that you look beyond comments on a case-by-case basis. You need to look at the big picture to summarize what’s happening in the customer experience so you can identify, prioritize, and implement changes that will have the biggest effect on satisfaction, loyalty, and revenue. But how?

The secret is in your customers.

Every day, customers are telling you what matters most in social posts and reviews. The vast amount of unsolicited data that resides in social networks and review sites is a rich, real-time, and unbiased source of truth about your brand, and just as importantly, about your competitors. By effectively mining this data, organizations can leap beyond outdated, expensive methods of measuring customer experience and tap into a neverending source of intelligence.

Start with an Apology

Don’t get me wrong – the apology is still as important as ever. Just look at these statistics:

  • 68% of users say the presence of a management response to negative reviews sways them toward purchasing from that company (TripAdvisor).
  • 34% of customers delete their negative review, or write a revision, after the company reaches out to them with an apology (RightNow).
  • Between one and three negative reviews is all is takes to deter the majority of shoppers from purchasing a product or service (Econsultancy).

Naturally, when a complaint is received via social media, it warrants a prompt response. Nearly 40% of people expect a response within an hour on social media, while the average brand response rate is closer to five hours (Entrepreneur). If your brand can bridge the gap between expectation and reality, you’ve already taken the first step to improving customer experience.

To continue down the road of resolving the customer experience, let’s review the basics of a solid social media apology:

  • Authenticity is the golden rule of apologies both online and offline. Be genuine in what you say, and don’t give a cookie cutter apology.
  • Resolve the issues brought to your attention by the customer. Don’t just say you’ll fix it, actually do it.
  • Give the person who left the review something to look forward to for the next time they visit you. Get their contact information and send them a personal message.
  • Encourage your team to learn from customers, fix problems quickly, and ask for more online reviews.

Discover the Bigger Picture

In a perfect world, there would be no need for an apology in the first place. While that seems like an impossible goal, there are steps you can take to get closer to it than you ever thought possible.

As a marketer, you can use social intelligence to improve your brand’s reputation and drive increased revenue and brand loyalty. Unsolicited customer feedback can give you real information on where your business needs to improve, whether it be at the corporate level or within a single location. And when you make these changes, you’re taking the first step to creating the best possible customer experience.

To accomplish this, you need to aggregate the customer data and have an accurate sentiment analysis tool that is specifically geared toward your industry and the unique customer journey. What matters in the guest experience for hotels is not the same thing that matters in retail or healthcare, so generic models won’t cut it.

Once you have the data and the insights, it’s critical to proactively share them across the organization. Social feedback touches everyone in a customer-centric environment. These insights can be combined with quantitative metrics such as point-of-sale data, market research, solicited survey feedback, and other traditional customer experience measures to drive a more complete picture of the customer journey, and the key trends affecting loyalty and attrition.

A robust change management program that creates trust in this new data source is important. As customer experience data is distributed further and more deeply into the organization – ultimately to the end points where customers interact with the brand, be it local general managers or individual product managers – the more value the organization receives. But building trust in the data first is an important step that allows it to become a trusted source of truth.

Think broadly about who could be impacted by the insights you gather. For example, marketing teams can identify differentiators for messaging and campaigns; merchandisers might make adjustments to forecasts or buys; and operations might change staffing models or in-store displays.

You have to get the data into the correct hands, in a usable fashion. Keep your findings brief and digestible; no one is going to read 100-page reports. No matter the format, it should be delivered by a leader who understand the importance of the voice of the customer data, and can position it in the most impactful way within the organization. Some options include daily automated reports, live conversation streams or feeds, and monthly dashboards.

Ultimately, you want internal users to easily glean the insights that are going to matter most to them. If not, you’re right back to where you started. Someone needs to own the customer experience, and this data fits right into that process. It shouldn’t only live with the social customer care team.

Move Beyond the Apology

To get the most out of your engagement efforts, you need to move beyond the apology and become proactive. This requires two important steps: breaking down silos, and using social intelligence to get ahead of issues that matter most to customers. After all, an empty apology will only carry you for so long, and complaints can have an enormous ripple effect.

Customers are sharing their experiences with one another, whether they’re good, bad, or ugly. Whatever they have to say directly influences their friends and others who read their comments; in fact, a study found that 4 out of 5 customers reverse their purchase decision after viewing online reviews. By apologizing publicly, you build goodwill not just with the complainer, but also anyone else reading the review. As an added perk, the complainer is more likely to update the review after you solved their problem, which helps with star ratings and overall reputation.

However, if all you did was solve the problem for that one person, two issues start to arise. First, more reviews about the same issue will almost certainly be written, resulting in a decrease in goodwill and a loss of customer trust. Second, there are likely many other people who have the same experience and leave saying they’ll never go back. These customers don’t complain, so you don’t have the chance to recover them. They are gone for good. The White House Office of Consumer Affairs found that for every customer who complains, another 26 feel the same way but remain silent. If you permanently fix the issue for the person complaining, you’re also fixing it for a larger audience.

If you take steps to move beyond the apology and fix the underlying issues that led to the complaint, you might be able to get those silent, unhappy customers back because they’ll hear about how you fixed it. But more importantly, you’ll stop bleeding those customers.


  1. Great points here, Ekaterina. I also read Michael’s work in support of this topic.

    One thing that we could all agree on is that ignoring customer complaints is NOT going to solve anything. As a consumer myself, I love it when brands respond that they have already solved my problem. It’s like hitting two birds with one stone: they addressed my concern and responded to me.

    On the other hand, as an entrepreneur, I appreciate client feedback because it gives me the opportunity to spot additional errors with my services. So responding to complaints AND further investigation are two crucial aspects of customer relations that businesses today need to be adept in.


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