I have to start out by offering a disclaimer: I’m not a public complainer. I probably wouldn’t even complain at a restaurant if they threw a bowl of soup over my head and called me a t**t.
But I do deal with a lot of people who complain, often very publicly. And that’s when I have to leave my bubble of content and get inside the angry, seemingly unhinged mind of the complainant.
However, often- they’re often not actually unhinged, a ‘Karen’ or a troll… When you really get under the skin of these complainants, they’re just frustrated people who are looking for the fastest resolution to their issue and haven’t had any success elsewhere.
So regardless of the things you really shouldn’t do when dealing with a complaint, there is always something to bear in mind that you should use as your ‘complaint armour’, and that’s compassion. Diffusing a bomb takes time and a steady hand, not going in gung-ho with all guns blazing.
When you’re responding to a complaint in the public sphere, especially on behalf of a large company or brand, it’s imperative that you don’t cut the wrong wire and end up with a sticky and very public mess. So without further ado, here are 5 ways to avoid making the situation worse and causing a social media frenzy.
5 ways NOT to respond to customer complaints:
Copy and Paste
Customers don’t like being fobbed off with a generic response. Take time to personalise your reply, even including their first name if it’s available. This is a great way to show you actually care about the issue they’ve raised, and can instantly help to dissipate those negative feelings.
Turning a blind eye
Ignoring a message is only going to cause more frustration and further complaints in the long run. This also includes waiting too long to reply. The ‘ostrich’ head in the sand routine is not going to wash on social media, not least because other prospective customers will be able to see the lack of interaction and decide not to use your brand. Create a plan of escalation for complaints you can’t easily respond to or need wider business input on – that way you won’t be caught out by any crisis.
However, there are a few rare instances when replying isn’t the best course of action, most notably if the comment is inappropriate or violates the platform’s community guidelines. In this case, report the comment via the platform itself.
N.B. Don’t delete comments unless inappropriate – if someone realises they’ll come back with a vengeance.
Airing your dirty laundry
Try and take it to the DM’s. The dreaded screenshot can come into play if you give a badly thought out public response, so even deleting won’t save you! By taking the conversation to a private forum you avoid commentary on what you’ve offered as a solution. Don’t let the situation turn into vultures fighting over the carcass of your response, picking it apart for the juicy vulnerable spots.
Taking the wrong tone
The phrase ‘don’t fight fire with fire’ is particularly apt on social media. Patronizing, antagonizing, aggressive, uncaring tones are all going to stoke the flames further. Also trying to avoid admitting a mistake if it’s very obvious will likewise just rile people up.
Hit it and quit it
The way to turn a complaint into a positive experience goes beyond a swift resolution of their issue. To really cement recognition of your outstanding customer service you should check back in for some aftercare… ‘Is everything ok now, is there anything else you can assist with?’ Even the most prickly characters will respect the effort you put in even after the initial complaint case is closed.
Hopefully, these pointers will help you avoid a complaint-straphe, but if you need additional help with your customer service offering then get in touch to see what community management solutions we could offer!