After opening new social media accounts for your business, it’s only a matter of time before you start to receive your first complaints (and as you grow, you will receive more).
Stop! Breathe! Take it easy! Your business is your baby, so it’s easy to get upset or angry when a customer posts a complaint online, especially if that complaint is untrue or unfair. But don’t take it personally. Even the very best businesses get complaints — what makes them the very best is the way that they handle those complaints. In order to handle a complaint well, it’s important to see each complaint for what it really is: **an opportunity**.
From the first moment that you receive a complaint on social media, your primary goal is to show that you’re listening. Acknowledging the complainer and offering to investigate further with them through direct message or over the phone shows them that you’re committed to fixing the issue.
Taking the conversation private serves three main purposes:
- It removes the complainer’s soapbox. Taking away their audience also diffuses the complainant’s power and they’ll often respond to this powerplay by doing absolutely nothing: the complaint dies there and then (although the dissatisfaction lingers…). You’ll see brands Tweet things like “@Timninjakitchen I am sorry to hear that. If you can DM us your account number we’ll look into this for you.” Some will, many won’t be bothered.
- The privacy allows sharing of sensitive customer information so the problem can be addressed properly.
- It puts the onus on the complainant. They now have to act. Whether it’s following the brand and sending a direct message with customer service numbers or transaction IDs, this requires more effort than simply writing a Tweet moaning about a perceived injustice. For many complaints, this effort is too much and the complaint diffuses.
Stay Strong — But Don’t Be Aggressive
Although it’s not a good idea to avoid apologising or admitting fault, it’s important that your brand keeps its integrity.
Publicly commenting on particular cases or mentioning specific team members is generally unnecessary and has the potential to damage your reputation, as well as the morale of any team members mentioned.
Like the martial arts principle of Jū, you want to accept your opponent’s attack and use it to your advantage rather than stand rigidly and take a punch to the face. So instead of dwelling on the problem or getting too caught up in apportioning blame, focus on finding a solution that makes everyone happy.
Showing aggression or defiance in complaint responses is a recipe for disaster and things can quickly get out of hand. In a recent episode of TV show Kitchen Nightmares featuring fiery chef Gordon Ramsay, an Arizona restaurant called Amy’s Baking Company failed to capitalise on the good publicity a nationwide TV appearance should have caused and instead began one of the most terrifying (yet entertaining) social media meltdowns in history.
The Amy’s Baking Co Facebook page was targeted by viewers who started leaving comments about the show and the owner Amy. Amy and the team responded with aggression, which in turn attracted more attention.
As the page began to go viral on social sharing site Reddit, more and more people began leaving comments not just about the show and staff, but how they were handling the rapidly accelerating runaway train. This in turn produced even more aggressive responses from the page owners who by now had entered a complete meltdown:
“I AM WONDER WOMAN. I AM A GREAT CHEF, A GREAT WIFE, AND A GREAT MOM TO MY KIDS. AND WE WILL BE PARENTS TO A HUMAN KID, ONE DAY TO. WE WILL SHOW ALL OF YOU.”
“WE ARE NOT FREAKING OUT. WE DO NOT CARE ABOUT A “WITCH HUNT” I AM NOT A WITCH. I AM GODS CHILD. P*** OFF ALL OF YOU. F*** REDDITS, F*** YELP AND F*** ALL OF YOU. BRING IT. WE WILL FIGHT BACK.”
Nothing says “calm and controlled” like caps lock, right? For those who enjoy that sort of thing, the Facebook page is well worth a visit.
Clearly, this is an extreme example, but cases like this prove that meeting hostility with aggression just doesn’t work online. Once situations get emotional they have the potential to quickly get out of control. Social communities gather like sharks as soon as they detect blood in the water. The takeaway is no matter how personal the issue feels, try to never respond in an emotional way.
Almost every business will, at some point, have dissatisfied customers. Some people just don’t want to be happy and it doesn’t matter what you do, they will stubbornly refuse. It’s just part of doing business and a side effect of serving a lot of people. When the comments come, it’s important to learn from them and meet them in a respectful and appreciative way on social.
Be sure to tackle customer complaints head on and see if you can’t put your brand out there as one of the most attentive listening brands in your industry. Also, don’t be afraid to inject a little humour into your customer complaint conversations and see if you can’t turn the situation around with a smile, not a frown.
What’s YOUR solution to public complaints?
You can find more details on how to get the best out of your social media marketing via our new book Profitable Social Media Marketing: How To Grow Your Business