Dealing With Complaints on Social Media

Social media gives brands an opportunity to start conversations with its customers. This open flow of communication is why there is such an emphasis on social media in PR efforts.  However, while this open communication platform enables people to interact you’re your brand and share positive experiences, it also an environment for complaints to be made. Nothing can reflect worse on your brand then seeing some rant about how awful your product or service is at the top of your Facebook page.  So how can we suggest our brands to go about responding to this in a professional tone and manner?

Let’s start with how they shouldn’t respond.

Don’t call your customer a b*itch on Facebook.  A crisis recently broke out in Malaysia; a bakery used profanity to describe a customer who took to Facebook with her complaints. The result – a huge backlash from customers who directed future customers to other bakeries where they wouldn’t receive such harsh treatment. (See this conversation about Linkedin about the topic).

Similarly in 2012, Olive Garden also fell under some heat after negatively responding to a customer on Facebook.   This type of behavior can only be bad for business, so let’s learn from these mistakes and move forward in creating a dialogue with consumers.

When faced with a problem it is said we can either fleet or fight. In the above examples it’s obvious these brands were looking for a fight. But there’s a different (and better option) for brands to pursue: respond and re-establish the confidence your customer should feel in your brand.

Instead, take a cue from brands like Southwest Airlines  and Zappos who are successfully using social media for customer servi ce.

In an interview with Triangle Business Journal, Southwest Airlines Chief Social Media Guru, Brooks Thomas, was interviewed on how his team deals with customer complaints via social media. You can just imagine the amount of complaints coming in with cancelled and delayed flights so Thomas notes it’s important to check the validity of each complaint before responding. Other feedback he gives is leaving a paper trail so the complaint can be easily tracked and taking whatever amount of time it takes to fix the customers problem. Using this tactic reestablishes the confidence in your brand and can help customers believe they made the right choice choosing your brand.

Zappos takes a very human approach to handling customer complaints as this FB post shows.  As a blog post  from points out Zappos is getting it right. Their quick response time (less than 24 hours) and friendly tone will keep this customer waiting for the day they ship internationally.

zappos friendly response (source:

Some customers are just looking to complain and be heard. If a brand uses social media as an outlet for their customers to be heard and allow them some type of recompense for their bad experience then the customer will have a renewed sense of faith in this brand and maybe look at the incident as a one-time thing.

Dealing with a complaint on social media requires a quick response and an action on behalf of the company to right their wrong. As brand managers it must be remembered that every single customer is important. People are much more likely to share their negative experience so being able to have a process and strategy on how to handle will definitely put you in a better spotlight.

Picture credit: Kerolic. Glove Icon: Roberto Quinones

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