How to Deal with a Customer Complaint via Social Media

Fri, Mar 4, 2011

Action Plans

Just yesterday, a person posed the following question to me during a Q&A session, “how do you prevent people from saying negative things about your small business through social media?”

One of the greatest things about social media is that is demands transparency and authenticity. The very nature of a social network encourages communication to take place in a “community environment.”  This prevents individuals and businesses alike from dealing with negative feedback in isolation (which can be a good and bad thing!).

If a customer posts a complaint publicly via your Facebook page for example, I encourage you to view it as an opportunity, not a threat. By proactively addressing that one customer’s concern, you have the ability to demonstrate to the community of customers that you have genuine intentions to keep them happy.

Thanks for reading this quick tip!  Please feel free to share it if you think it could help a fellow small business owner.

~Emily A. Hay

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10 Responses to “How to Deal with a Customer Complaint via Social Media”

  1. Emily Says:

    Great tip Emily! I know! Many people have left negative comments about my company or what I’m doing and my first reaction was to delete it but it really does pose a great opportunity to bring people “into the light” if you will :) and teach others who see those comments.

  2. emilyahay Says:

    Hi Emily – thanks for visiting :) It is wise to always be diligent in determining what is a valid “customer complaint” vs. negative feedback. I think that you put the RIGHT spin on getting negative feedback on your site – you saw it as a chance to educate that person on the audience you focus on and how you add value to their lives and businesses. And at the end of the day, not everyone is going to have positive feedback because you are not appealing to EVERYONE, we each have a target audience.

    If a person has a genuine customer complaint, that is the opportunity to acknowledge their experience, apologize for the inconvenience and take action to fix the problem. We all know that actions always speak louder than words.

    Thanks again!
    ~Emily

  3. Chrissy Jamie Says:

    Definitely can relate to this one, as one of my blogs allows people to submit consumer complaints. The whole point being, when a company ignores complaints, I allow people to get their attention by helping them rank in Google search for them. It’s really sad how larger companies have lost that customer service that made them great, outsourcing everything just to save a few dollars off their bottom line.

    Great read and keep writing emily you have a great style and it was enjoyable to follow you :)

  4. emilyahay Says:

    Hi Chrissy! Thanks for stopping by. I am really interested by your insight because your blog offers a unique customer platform! In my experience, it seems that larger companies are slowly but surely being MORE responsive to customer complaints that are made via social media. One of the things that excites me MOST about social media is its ability to practically force companies & individuals to be accountable and more responsive. If you regularly seeing large companies ignore complaints, then I agree, that is a poor reflection of that company’s priorities. A company has a much greater incentive to deal with a customer complaint well via social media since it’s made publicly – if a company ignores that opportunity, it can be much more harmful since a customer’s social network is watching.

    Aww thanks for your compliment – I look forward to keeping in touch!
    ~Emily :)

  5. Camile Janz Says:

    Hi Emily,

    This is a great topic. I agree with you how social media is “pushing” companies to respond. However, I noticed from the recent announcement of the Fender Premium Audio System, it was not feasible to reply to the negative comments and complaints from some of the Facebook fans. In this particular case, the approach was to let fans express their opinions and comments. If you answer one, than you have to answer all. It was interesting to see how other fans would quickly dispute the negative comments.

    Your site is great!

  6. emilyahay Says:

    Hi Camile, thanks for your example of a large organization like Fender’s experience with social media “complaints”. If I were in charge of Fender’s social media strategy here’s the approach I would take:

    – If a complaint comes in regarding a product – i.e. if something is faulty, needs replaced, has a technical or billing issue, we will address each individual customer via Facebook by letting them know what next step to take to get a resolution. That might be providing them with an email to discuss further, that might be a second question to understand if technical phone support is needed, or it could be a a direct action such as which store to take the product for replacement. This is where responding to one AND all is necessary. As customers, we each deserve response to a valid complaint.

    – If negative feedback is posted via Facebook – then I agree with the approach to allow other customers the chance to respond to each other, however, I would recommend Fender absolutely GET IN ON the conversation. No need to respond to each negative response because you can’t always please everyone. Fender could address multiple negative comments at once by providing suggestions, clarifications, reference to articles, or anything that can facilitate customers getting accurate, valuable information regarding their products. This is Fender’s GOLDEN OPPORTUNITY to be a part of the conversation in a way that enables a relationship to be formed with the customers talking… AND with the customers listening.

    It sounds like Fender is using social media effectively if they are providing a forum/gathering place for their community to come together and talk about the products — good, bad and indifferent. If Fender, or any business, can be viewed as a resource for valuable information in addition to a provider of quality products, then they will have customers for life — which I am sure they already do.

    Thanks for your kind words about my site :)

    Come back soon – you have great industry insight!
    ~Emily

  7. Gov Says:

    Great Post Emily

  8. emilyahay Says:

    Thanks Gov! Appreciate your insight.
    ~Emily

  9. Thomas Says:

    Hi Emily.

    I totally agree about the need for authenticity – it’s no good trying to sweep problems under the carpet. Complaints only get worse if you ignore them and all it takes is some swift action to appease most customers.

  10. emilyahay Says:

    Hi Thomas – thanks for dropping by and for sharing your insight, happy you did! You mention swift action — you are spot on. Isn’t the saying “actions speak louder than words”…so true…responding quickly is a “must” (which can sometimes settle an unhappy customer more than the end resolution). I am happy I use the “comment luv” plug in for WordPress — heading over to take a look at your latest post on this topic now :)
    ~Emily

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