Four Ways to Deal with the Haters (on Social Media)

Taylor Swift dropped some pretty good life advice when she told us to shake off the haters, but is that a good move for your dealership? Probably not.

More and more people are taking their customer service complaints to social media after bad experiences. While it’s always important to address complaints about your service, today’s social media-centric world has made it far too easy for people to label any negative interaction as a “haters gonna hate” moment – essentially shifting the blame entirely onto the other party. But, that can be an extremely costly attitude for a business to have.

How much is one negative comment worth? One lost vehicle sale or service customer?

It’s so much more than a single transaction.

You’re not just losing that customer’s potential lifetime value. You’ll also likely lose a large percentage of business from anybody else who sees that negative comment. In fact, a recent guest article on Inc.com indicated that a business needs 40 positive reviews to make up for one bad one.

So, shaking it off and allowing even one negative social media comment to snowball can allow the haters to dominate the conversation and drag your dealership’s reputation down. Instead, here are four tips for taking on these negative reactions and dealing with the haters.

Don’t “Shake it Off”

To reiterate what we said above, Rule No. 1 of dealing with the haters is don’t ignore the haters. Respond promptly and politely and try to find a way to resolve the issue. Take time to investigate the problem and apologize if it was in fact your fault.

Ideally, you should take the conversation offline (by phone or in person) as soon as possible — or at least to private messages. A public response is incredibly important so other customers can see that you are handling the situation, but that doesn’t mean the details need to be out in the open. That’s especially true if the customer is actually wrong and intentionally trying to damage your dealership, since you don’t want to appear to be calling them out publicly.

Take Care of “Bad Blood” Quickly

The internet doesn’t sleep, and negative comments can fester like an infection if left unaddressed for too long. A stray late-night comment that doesn’t tag your dealership would be easily missed if you’re not actively monitoring such mentions. If that comment gets a few shares and retweets, the bulk of your customer base might know about it long before you do.

Stay on top of your mentions on social media as well as on popular review sites like Yelp, Google, and DealerRater around the clock. People are easily influenced by online reviews and the social media posts of friends and family. Even one moderately negative reaction can make them hesitate and consider looking at other dealerships months or even years down the road.

Offer a “Blank Space” for Feedback

People are more likely to be proactive when complaining about a negative experience, but what if you offered an outlet for your customers to provide feedback immediately after you interact with them? While asking for reviews won’t help you avoid the negative comments, doing so can help you immediately address negative comments and build a collection of positive reviews to offset the bad ones.

One word of caution: Don’t instruct your employees to specifically ask for five-star reviews. If customers aren’t honest in their reviews, it can hide areas where your employees can actually stand to improve. Encouraging transparency might earn you some reputation credit with your customers as well.

Have a Plan for Getting “Out of the Woods”

You might already have some guidelines for how your dealership uses its social media pages, but you also need a dedicated plan for dealing with a full-blown social media disaster. When you have to make decisions in the heat of the moment, it’s easy to make the wrong choice and do something rash like deleting the comment or getting defensive.

Use the tips in this blog to establish a plan for who handles what with regard to negative comments. If an outside vendor handles your social media or public relations, make sure they know what you expect in a social media crisis.

No matter how you choose to approach negative comments on your social media feed, be certain that you handle them in a polite and professional manner. A negative reaction to a negative comment only makes things worse.