Handling Complaints Via Social Media

By Maria Peagler

Jan 12

Last week I had a great question that arose during an all-day workshop I was conducting for a client.  “What do we do if someone posts something negative about our company?  How do we handle that?”

This is THE question in the back of all entrepreneurs’ mind when they start out in social media, and it’s a major reason many companies never venture into the social media landscape.

Big mistake.  Here’s a video musician Dave Carroll produced after United Airlines broke his guitar and refused to pay for it.  This video has been viewed over 10 million times, and United treated this as a catastrophic event, along the same lines as an airliner crash.

[pb_vidembed title=”United Breaks Guitars” caption=”” url=”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5YGc4zOqozo” type=”yt” w=”480″ h=”385″]

Here’s what to do and even more importantly, what not to do:

  1. Apologize via social media and in person.  Call the customer to apologize in person and publicly acknowledge your client’s disappointment via social media.  “We’re sorry we didn’t meet your expectations, and we’ll be in touch with you personally to rectify the situation.  We promise.”  You want to publicly recognize the complaint and show that you are going to do what it takes to resolve it.
  2. Don’t mention specifics.  Handle the details on a person-to-person level with your client.  You never want to expose confidential client information in a public forum.
  3. Don’t ignore the comment.  That creates the perception your company doesn’t care.  A major faux pas in social media is to put your company’s brand on a social network and then ingore customer complaints.  Why are you there if you’re not going to engage?  Sure, I’ve heard from the C-suite “we’re not going to engage in a p-ssing match,” but it’s happening with you or without you.  Better to get in there and let people know you’re on top of it.
  4. Turn the complainer into a fan. Be creative in resolving the customer’s complaint and then some.  It’s possible they’ll share their terrific experience with your company publicly as well.  If they complained via a social network, they’ll sing your praises there too.  Zappos is famous for their terrific customer service, in which they strive to WOW their customers.  Learn from them.
  5. Manage customer expectations.  Let people know what you can and can’t do.  VistaPrint has a worldwide audience on Twitter, but they have U.S. working hours.  So they start their day on Twitter by saying “Good Morning,” and end the day by saying “Good Night.”  That way customers know not to expect them to be there all hours of the day in their time zone.

United did, eventually, rectify the situation, but far too late. Here’s how they should have handled it: they should have contacted Dave directly, offered to replace the guitar, and then they should have produced a video of their own to publicly announce the resolution.

That’s what Ramon DeLeon, a Domino’s franchise owner did, after his customer Amy received a pizza an hour late and then posted about her experience on Twitter.  Ramon was on top of the situation and handled it with grace, publicly acknowledging his store’s screw-up.  He then WOWed Amy by providing pizza for 350 people at the Chicago Social Media Club, an organization she belongs to (Ramon didn’t know she was a member.  What he did know was he needed to create a positive buzz to counter the negative).  Well done.

[pb_vidembed title=”Domino’s Apology” caption=”” url=”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-r8Th9DBGbQ” type=”yt” w=”480″ h=”385″]
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About the Author

Founder of Socialmediaonlineclasses.com, Benjamin Franklin award-winner for independent publishing, award winning author of eight books, wife, mom, quilter and watercolor artist.

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(2) comments

Michelle February 28, 2011

I would only add one thing. If you are going to follow up ensure that you adding value and not fuel to the fire! Great post! For an example of what I’m referring too, see this link: http://bit.ly/hnMSeI

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    Maria Peagler February 28, 2011

    Michelle – Good point. Read your story and the hotel situation sounded uncomfortable. Always let customers know how valuable they are and how much you value their business. Too many companies act as if they are your only choice, until it’s too late.

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