Long before the internet, television, print media and even radio, we had no choice but to communicate via word of mouth. And to this day it still remains a valuable promotional method for businesses. Consumers are influenced by what they are told by their peers about a particular product or service. If someone isn't not happy with a product/service they react by no longer using that product/service and voicing their negative experience to their friends and family - the exact opposite responses that a business is looking for.
Customer service expectations are increasing year by year and customers are wanting a quick response, they are turning to social media to do that. The Ombudsman Services website states...
Social media gives customers the opportunity to campaign directly if they have a problem. More than 5.2 million complaints were made last year through social media
If your business isn't already - Get on social media now
Be on the platforms that your customers are and start to listen to what they are saying. Remember to also watch for your brand being mentioned even when not directly tagged and notified. Where your reputation could be tarnished through word of mouth, it can potentially be damaged beyond repair through social media, you need to be vigilant.
If you are unfortunate enough to get negative reviews or posts about your business try and stay calm. Provide a public response initially and direct them to communicate directly with you via email or by telephone. Let the audience see that you are dealing with the complaint, but take it away from the public eye.
Treat each complaint individually and make your best judgement.
Handle it well; lessen the chances of a small fire being fuelled by others and getting out of control!