Have you ever felt the cold, hard shoulder of an immovable customer sales representative? You go through the online checkout and buy that extremely-hard-to-find product only to be told that the company is understocked, and they’ve already sold the last item. You contact the support team just to be told that there’s “nothing we can do; is there anything else I can help you with today?” Seeing as though this product was all you wanted, no, there’s nothing else the sales rep can do. You leave frustrated, dejected and, above all, angry. Then you remember there’s an outlet for your anger – it’s called social media!  

You unlock your phone and fire up (enter your social media platform of choice here). It doesn’t take long for you to find the handle of the company in question; they’ll regret ever denying you your product. Soon you’re firing off rage emojis at will in a piece of vitriolic prose.  

Now let’s change roles. You’re the social media representative of a company that sells said product. Upon entering the office, you see the undeniable sheen of anxiety on the face of the head of marketing, which can only mean one thing: an unhappy customer is using social media to vent their anger. You can see the glowing red of a rage emoji reflecting onto your boss’s face, giving her something of a sunburnt hue. She gestures to you to sit down and tackle the situation. What do you do?

Listen and Empathise 

Firstly, how long was it since the customer posted? Promptly replying has advantages: it demonstrates to new, old and potential customers that your social media channels are regularly checked and that they are useful places for product information, customer service and more (which can result in more followers); additionally, a disgruntled customer is more likely to react well if they feel his or her concerns are being listened to in a timely manner.

Now it’s time to consider the content of the customer’s post. He/she has taken the time to contact the company on two separate occasions (email and social) after not receiving a satisfactory answer. Does he or she have a valid point? It appears the customer has paid for a product that is no longer in stock. That is frustrating, and it deserves recognition. Is it the company’s error? Does the company’s social media publication guide permit you to admit the company was at fault on this occasion?  

There’s no right answer in how to deal with complaints and criticism in a professional context; there are, however, a few tips that can ensure each party involved ends with a satisfactory resolution.  

Tip One

Take the conversation away from the public eye. Twitter and Facebook are excellent platforms for firing quick messages, but for more lengthy discussions, email or even a telephone conversation is likely to be more appropriate. By taking the conversation away from prying ears, you’re also guaranteeing that the negativity around the brand is kept to a minimum.

Tip Two

Listen, analyse, empathise and respond. The reason the customer is contacting you in this manner is that he or she has not been appropriately listened to earlier in the transaction process. Firstly, we listen to the concern or request, then we think about how we can rectify the issue. We then consider how the same outcome would affect us, then respond with a response fitting of a company that is willing to hold its hands up and admit that it did not fulfil its professional promise.

Tip Three

Find an appropriate response. Thank the customer for drawing attention to a potential issue in the company. Who knows how much they might have saved the company in future issues (and more bad PR). We can show our gratitude to the customer here by offering a refund with some extra store credit on top; store credit has the added bonus of all but guaranteeing the customer revisits the brand.

Tip Four 

Find out why the issue arose. While dealing with customer concerns is an everyday reality for many social media specialists, it should never be his or her primary job; if that becomes the case, it may be an indication of a fundamental issue within the business. Make sure every complaint is flagged to the right team so appropriate actions can be taken to ensure the mistake doesn’t happen again.

How would you deal with a social media meltdown? Comment below! 

Interested in becoming a social media specialist? At UKCBC, we have several business courses that include modules on social media. Contact a UKCBC course advisor today to find out how we can help you achieve your professional goals.

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