It’s finally happened. You look at you company’s Facebook page, and there it is, a nasty complaint from a customer. Whether it comes from Facebook, Twitter or Google Plus, it’s negative attention, and for a brief moment, you feel like you’ve been punched in the stomach.
In all honesty, every company experiences negative backlash or comments from clients. Maybe your guys dropped the ball or perhaps the customer misunderstood a product or service. In any case, their comments still reflect badly on you.
So how do you deal with them? Here’s how you can handle negative social media brand mentions and come out with your reputation intact.
Get to know your complainer
The first step begins with knowing who your accuser is. More than likely, it’s going to be one of these five characters:
- Timid Tim: Tim is regular shopper who can usually put up with a lot, but when he finally gets pushed to the limits, he snaps. Rather than complain on site, he’d rather do it over social media where he doesn’t have to meet your face to face.
- Aggressive Ashley: Ashley has a problem and she’s going to tell you about it, usually in all caps and probably on Facebook where she’s not limited to 140 characters.
- Fancy Nancy: Nancy works hard for her money so you better treat her right. She feels that if she’s paying a bit more for quality, you should deliver. Her issue is usually laid out in a reasonable and respectful manner, but if Nancy and Aggressive Ashley get together, you could be in for some trouble.
- Opportune Oliver: Oliver has a complaint, and it doesn’t really matter if you can solve it or not. He’s looking to get something that a normal customer is usually not entitled to. Beware. His game of “not-good-enough” can go on if you let it.
- Cryin’ Ryan: No matter what you do, there’s no way to stop Ryan. The food was cold. There wasn’t enough BBQ sauce. The cake didn’t have enough chocolate. Though you may grind your teeth at complaints from this person, they are usually repeat customers so you still have to respond.
Now that we’ve identified who you’re up against, let’s look at some positive ways you can alleviate the situation and look like a pro.
Offer a sincere apology
Regardless of what type of complainer you have, you should always offer an apology. Even if you feel the complaint is unfair, you can ease some of the complainer’s frustration just by acknowledging them and showing that you are sorry for wronging them.
This tactic works better on some complainers than others. Timid Tim, for example, will usually be satisfied with an apology. He really just wants to be heard by you so letting him know you’re listening should cool him off. He’ll probably continue to do business with you as he knows you’re listening.
Fancy Nancy, however, is looking for results and wants to know what you’ll do to compensate. Agree that there is a definitely a problem and you would like to talk more about it. Then move the conversation offline. Provide a number where she can reach you and let her contact you. That way, you have the last word online, and when and if she contacts you, you can correct the situation without so many other people watching.
Message or email complainer directly
The key to handling negative social media brand mentions is to not let things spiral out of control. You don’t want to start a comment war online so with all of your customers, stop responding when things get too heated, especially if a customer starts swearing or using derogatory language. Nothing good can come from this.
When Aggressive Ashley starts really throwing punches or Cryin’ Ryan starts wailing, take the discussion off social media. You don’t have to delete the comment thread, but you can tell the customer that you would like to assist them further, but you will not do it like this. Offer to message or email them.
This is one of the best ways to deal with Ashley. Though she’s loud and lengthy in her complaints, she can be subdued if you’re quick and swift. Always read her entire complaint, and even as she’s done, ask “What else?” Even if you don’t fully agree, own up to the problem and tell her exactly how you plan to deal with it.
She may be loud, but if you solve Ashley’s problem efficiently, she’ll often be your loudest defender.
Crying’ Ryan, on the other hand, needs all of your patience. Sometimes his problems are reasonable; other times they aren’t. Move your conversation off social media as soon as possible and address the concerns either by email or over the phone. No matter what is said, your anger or frustration must always remain in check. Ryan is often vocal, and if you settle things amicably, he’ll probably put in a good word about you to others.
Ask “What would make you feel better?”
This is the best way to stop Opportune Oliver in his tracks. Whether you do it directly on a comment thread or in a private message or email, you have now put the power in the customer’s hands and you can gauge how you should respond.
Oliver’s plan is to keep asking for more so he’ll keep pushing you to see how far you’ll go. Rather than letting him go off, ask “What can I do to make things right?” This should stem the flow of complaints for the most part, and you’ll see if Oliver is really looking for a solution.
If Oliver gives a reasonable answer, by all means answer his request. If you cannot, explain why. Chances are his request is for something free, which is probably beyond the scope of the complaint. Offer to message him or her privately to talk about how you can work things out on a more private platform.
Still feeling nervous about what to say to a complaining customer? Here are a few things to avoid when addressing complaints:
- Don’t give a discount of freebie through a comment. This will encourage other people to complain just to get free stuff. You can offer a discount, but do it in a private message.
- Don’t get angry or aggressive. Keep your answers factual and use data, if possible, to back up your statements.
- Don’t let the comment sit there for others to see. Respond as quickly as you can.