Dealing with customer complaints on social media

Posted on 08 Mar 2016
Reader Question:

Doctor Digital, I’m worried about how to handle complaints about my business on social media, it hasn’t happened yet, but how do I prepare myself?

Doctor Digital Says:

A lot of business owners really stress about how to handle complaints on social media. The reality is, most people who complain have a genuine grievance and their contact with you is a terrific opportunity for you to show the world what your brand values look like in action.

Of course being prepared for a situation, and making sure you and your staff are briefed on the response strategy is the best way to keep worry at bay. To help you get ready, here is the Doctor Digital 10 point triage for when you get the low-down on social media.

1. Respond quickly

The swifter the response, the better the recovery. Use an aggregator like Hootsuite or a brand monitor like Mention to show you swiftly who is commenting on your social media channels.

2. Acknowledge the problem

Your customer is in pain, so much so that they have gone to the effort of letting you (and the world) know. Acknowledge the issue, and apologise for their trauma. Remember in this situation what you think is right isn’t the issue – it’s how the customer feels that you need to fix.

3. Fix it or find out how

You may not have all the answers, but looking for them is part of the response. The cost of replacing an item, repairing faulty goods, resending something that hasn’t arrived is minimal compared to the cost of brand damage. If it is a poor service issue, apologise, lay out the strategy for fixing the situation, and offer something to the customer to help them feel compensated. Often an apology and an acknowledgement is enough – but ask them what they would like.

4. Keep them updated

If you are getting more information about a situation, ensure that the customer is kept informed all along the process. It is usually a lack of, or poor communication that has been the cause of the problem, so making sure they are in the loop until it is resolved will keep the situation calm and considerate.

5. Keep it public

Yes, that’s right, try and resolve the situation on the channel where the complaint was made. Businesses make mistakes, and it is noble and transparent to deal with them so other customers can see how you treat them.

6. Except of course

If the complaint is vile and abusive, it is still worth commenting in the most compassionate and respectful way possible. If it is offensive and profane, delete it, but make a comment about why you’ve deleted it (the language for instance isn’t suitable for your family friendly site, not the issue which you apologise for the person feeling so mad).

7. Never argue

That’s never EVER. You can’t win at brand management and customer service by arguing and being right with someone who is already angry. There is no winner in that situation.

8. Brief your team

Your staff and everyone who manages your social media needs to know who is responsible for dealing with complaints, and what the chain of command and escalation is. Don’t let this be a reason for people to leave things unanswered, and make sure as business owner you are available or have someone deputised when you aren’t.

9. Keep your bots at bay

Whatever you do, don’t have an automated or impersonal response. That is fuel to the fire for a customer looking to be acknowledged and wrongs to be righted.

10. It’s not personal

It might feel like it when your business or brand is being criticised, but the reality is that the person complaining is upset with the situation, and you also have no idea what else is going on in their life, and this may just be the straw that broke the camel’s back. This is why utmost care and respect can transform a complaint into a customer service success story.