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04.05.2023 08:55

Mixed reviews on social media

It’s now easier than ever to give feedback publicly, and customer service professionals are inundated with both thanks and criticism on social media. In the best case the criticism is constructive, in the worst case it is inappropriate insults. You don’t have to put up with just anything, says an expert.

It’s now easier than ever to give feedback publicly on customer service. There are online evaluation sites and companies’ own social media accounts. Increasingly customers are keen to give both positive and negative reviews on their own Facebook or Twitter accounts or to do an update on their local Facebook account, for example. Companies and organisations themselves also actively request feedback from customers.

Comments vary from one extreme to the other. Whilst one person praises the service they got to the skies, someone else gives constructive criticism, a third person is offensive and makes personal comments. Sometimes there’s nothing at all behind the feedback.

– Anonymous feedback in particular can be very rough and distorted. Things no-one would ever say to another person face to face, says PAM’s working environment specialist Erika Kähärä.

Negative public feedback can be very harmful for businesses. It can also be mentally tough for employees even if it isn’t actually directed at them.

Kähärä points out that the fear of negative social media feedback can lead employees to take more criticism from customers than would be reasonable or sensible.

– This fear goes against the principle that employees don’t have to put up with just anything to provide customer service. You have to be able to say to an abusive customer that you can’t speak to me like that. Or that if you don’t stop I won’t serve you, Kähärä points out.

According to PAM’s specialist, negative public feedback is a new sort of psychosocial stress factor that employers should recognise in making workplace risk assessments.

Criticism can be useful

Public criticism isn’t always a bad thing. Wise companies or organisations monitor feedback and learn from it.

According to Kähärä, saying thank you is the right way to receive negative feedback. Thanks to the customer for raising a problem so that the company or organisation can do all it can to put it right.

But there are limits to saying thank you: you shouldn’t say thank you for abuse or obscenities.

Emotional feedback shouldn’t be dismissed entirely, however.

– Usually there’s a genuine reason behind feedback, even when it’s bitter and extreme. A product was sold out. The queue was long or a meal was bad. Wise employers look into the actual reason and reflect on what went wrong in the company’s processes and how the problem can be corrected. Blaming individual employees doesn’t solve problems, Kähärä points out.

Employers don’t always address feedback properly, however, and pass the buck on to individual employees without thinking much or listening to employees. In conflict situations employees should always be consulted too. In particular, pointed feedback given anonymously isn’t a 100% truthful picture of what happened.

You should be ready for negative feedback

Large companies in particular think in advance about how to react to a social media storm. Smaller organisations, on the other hand, usually don’t have a plan or operating model for negative feedback.

In some jobs, service sector professionals’ job description might include updating the company’s social media. Pictures of meals on Instagram or mentioning that day’s specials on Facebook. Whilst doing their social media updates, employees might also notice complaints about the company’s service.

– Service sector professionals are rarely also trained as communications professionals. If an employee is in charge of social media, it would be good to agree in advance what to do with negative feedback. Who should be told and who is responsible for reacting to the feedback? Kähärä says.


Face-to-face feedback is best

But social media isn’t just grumbling, you also come across sincere thanks and praise.

– It’s always a nice feeling. Your motivation goes up and it feels good coming into work when you get praise sometimes, Jukka says.

In the workplace, managers should also mention positive feedback from customers. Smart employers share thanks with the whole work community. Customer service is rarely just down to the work of one employee. For example, a customer’s good restaurant experience is down to many professionals in the kitchen and the serving staff.

Kähärä would also recommend giving negative feedback face to face.

– If possible, feedback should be given at the time you come across a problem. If there’s something wrong with a restaurant meal, you should tell the waiter right away. This gives the company a chance to put things right. Direct face-to-face feedback is the most genuine and honest way.

At the end of the day, the most important thing with criticism is to be objective and constructive, whether the feedback is given face to face, online, straight away or later on. Being abusive doesn’t help the employee, the company or the customer themselves.