Complaining Customers and Social Media: How to Make Them Happy Again

Dealing with customer complaints as they arise is a critical part of maintaining your brand’s reputation. Survey data suggests that at least 4 out of 5 consumers will reverse a purchase decision based on negative reviews. Therefore, it’s important to have a strategy set in advance for negativity or complaints in your social media feeds so you aren’t taken by surprise or reacting with emotion first. If you’re looking for more, Jay Baer has written an entire book, Hug Your Haters, on the subject, which I highly recommend. When dealing with complaints, keep the following in mind to get the best results for both your customer and your business.

Get Past the Anger

Sometimes, the hardest part of dealing with a customer complaint is avoiding becoming defensive. The truth is, you cannot assume that because a customer is angry their complaint is invalid. Ask yourself what caused the problem — did your customer service fail them, was your website’s copy unclear, or was it an operational problem? Identify the exact failing that brought them to this point. Don’t dismiss a complaint because a customer may be less than articulate in expressing their frustration. Try to dig and find out why.

Track and Record the Complaint

Some customers will complain repeatedly. Some are chronic complainers online while others have truthfully encountered every problem that exists with your product or service. Being able to sort through these complaints requires organization and consistency across all channels. If you’re running a small business, think about using a cloud -based software to keep records of customer preferences and history to provide a consistent customer service experience. If you’re a corporate social media community manager, make sure you’re able to record your customer service interactions on your corporate customer service platform. Break down those silos. In either case, being able to track and sort your interactions will help you make process decisions to improve quality overall.

Take Responsibility for Their Experience

Nothing upsets a customer with a complaint like being told the problem is their fault or sweeping the complaint under the virtual rug. On social media it can be tempting to delete the offending comment. Instead, go back to step one and try to find out more. When responding use language that shows you are listening and genuinely want to help.  If you know you or your company messed up, opt for language that instantly defuses frustration by accepting blame: “I am sorry our product did not meet our normal standard of quality,” or even a simple “We are sorry to disappoint you.” Then, take the conversation offline as soon as possible. Route them to your customer service team or have them message you an email or phone contact and continue the conversation there. Your social media audience will appreciate the transparency and your angry customer will feel heard.

Move Quickly

Automation has made our lives easier, but can also leave customers in limbo. HelpScout reports found on a Harris Interactive poll that 75 percent of customers believe it takes too long to reach a live agent. While this is a subjective response coming from frustrated customers, the lesson is still clear. Connect upset customers with an actual person as soon as possible. If you’re on social media, try to respond within 30 minutes of their original post. If you’re transferring a customer via phone keep it under two minutes. Be sure they understand the next person will be better suited to helping them. There is nothing worse than waiting for an answer, especially when you are frustrated. There’s also nothing worse than getting stuck in a circle of customer service automation, which happened to me recently. If you’d like to read my rant about being human, here you go!

Customers have more avenues to complain about your products and services than ever before. Make sure you are capturing all those conversations and responding in a way that diffuses the situation and provides an agreeable solution. The best possible outcome? You’ll turn that complaining customer into a customer advocate for life.

If you have questions about how to listen for and respond to complaints on social media feel free to contact me. I’m happy to work with you to set up a reputation management plan.


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