“The biggest mistake a small business owner can make is to think social media replaces customer service, and to just use Twitter and Facebook to put out fires,” says Peter Shankman, author of Customer Service: New Rules in a Social Media World and Nice Companies Finish First.

Good customer service, says Shankman, comes down to making customers happy at the point of purchase and engaging them in positive ways via social media channels.

#1 Do

But what should a small business owner do if a customer leaves a negative comment on the company’s Facebook or Twitter page?

“Answer as quickly as possible and explain that you are in the process of fixing the problem,” he recommends. “Remember: there is no better lover than a former hater.”

Shankman advises business owners to create alternative email addresses for complaints. For example, if a customer visits a company’s social media page to complain about something, respond quickly (in an hour or less, if possible) and ask them to send you an email documenting their complaint via an alternative email address (one that is different from your primary address, but is still forwarded to you). This will help cut down on spammers who see the same tweet and want to send you multiple ranting emails.

#1 Don’t

delete-buttonWhile it can be difficult to see scathing reviews on your company’s social media pages, remember not to react in haste by responding unprofessionally or deleting the customer’s comment altogether.

“Deleting comments is never a good idea,” says Shankman. “The customer can easily retaliate by taking a screenshot of their former comment, posting the screenshot and telling the world that you deleted the comment, which can make matters even worse.

“Just reach out, acknowledge their complaint, tell them that you are taking steps to find a solution and then offer your contact information.”