What to do When A Customer Calls You Out on Social Media

Posted by Jen Ochej on April 22, 2013

Ahh, social media. From MySpace to Facebook to Twitter, it’s added so much to our lives. With social media you can get breaking news faster than CNN can report it; talk to celebrities and politicians—and, if you’re lucky, actually have them answer; even get speedy customer service from a brand or company.

It’s a bit tricky though, too. Increased access and visibility is great when you’re the one asking the question or making the statement; but what about when you’re on the receiving end?

There’s no way around it; if someone has something to say about you online, it will be said. You can’t stop it, erase it, or prevent it. So what do you do? How do you respond?

A few thoughts:

Know when to ignore it.

If you’ve spent much time online, and particularly if you’re any kind of content creator, you’ve heard the expression “Don’t feed the trolls.” No matter what you say or do, chances are that someone somewhere is going to have a snarky comment to make about it, and the truth is that they’re often just looking to pick a fight or get a rise out of you. The best way to deal with these types is just to ignore them. There’s nothing to be gained from feeding a troll.

Know when to respond (and how).

If you’re lucky, you’ll sometimes have customers make valid complaints on social media. But wait—why does that make you lucky? Isn’t it a bad thing, because it’s public?

That’s actually what makes it a great thing. You see, in the past, customers with valid complaints had two options: speak to the management directly by phone or in person, or, more likely, complain to everyone they know—without your knowledge. That starts to hurt business, but there’s nothing you can do about it because you don’t know it’s happening and you’re not part of the conversation. With the advent of social media, you get looped in almost automatically, because the customer making the complaint wants you to know they’re unhappy. Yes, all of their friends and followers see their complaint—but now you’ve been handed a golden opportunity for them to see how well you handle it and make it better, too.

So, if a customer makes a valid complaint about you on Twitter, Facebook, or some other social media platform, see it as an opportunity to fix whatever the problem is, and to display your stellar customer service.

As for how to respond? Graciously, and publicly. One of the worst things you can do is panic and try to take the conversation “offline”—all that does is communicate that you’ve got something to hide. Everyone knows companies make mistakes; let them see how you fix it and you’re likely to win them over.

Know when to delete, ban, and/or block.

Sometimes, there’s just nothing to be done. The person calling you out isn’t a troll that can be ignored, or a customer giving you a great customer service opportunity; they’re just a troublemaker who’s not going to be quiet or go away. They might be posting hate speech or offensive content, making libelous statements, or just spewing off incoherent nonsense, but the bottom line remains the same: sometimes you have to delete, ban, and/or block a comment or even a user.

A certain degree of finesse is key; being too trigger-happy and auto-deleting every less-than-positive comment is definitely the wrong way to go about this. Make every effort to evaluate individual comments, and their context; is this a one-time thing? Has this person been spamming us with negative comments? Are they responding rationally or just repeating the same complaints despite your efforts to make it right? Finding the answers to those questions will help you to know when it’s time to just say goodbye to a customer and their rants.

Final thoughts

Ultimately, having a good handle on your social media presence, and a thoughtful, perceptive person behind the wheel will take you a long way toward properly handling customer complaints via social media. The key is to see it not as an attack, but as an opportunity to engage the customer and demonstrate why your company is still the right choice, despite whatever caused them to complain in the first place. If you handle it well, you’ll not only retain that customer but maybe even gain some of their friends and followers, too.