Let’s face it, we have all been a part of customer service, either on the consumer side or the service side.

Another thing we can all agree on is that we have all had a bad customer service experience.

Ten years ago, we would go through the bad experience, maybe tell a few close friends about it, then it would be forgotten and life would go on.

However, with Facebook and Twitter, the world of customer service is now a very different place. I’m sure all of us have seen a Facebook ‘friend’ venting their anger at the hair salon that gave them a bad haircut or their phone company (who could forget ‘VodaFail’).

As a business, you unfortunately can’t stop or prevent an unhappy customer from unleashing their dissatisfaction on-line. Sometimes you wont even receive the courtesy of an email or private message and the first you will hear about their unhappiness is through a barrage of hostility on your Facebook page.

There are a few steps to ensure a potential PR nightmare can be turned into a conversation that is calm, rationale, professional and all importantly, resolved.

1. Don’t respond straight away: Your first immediate response will be an emotional one, this is not what you want portrayed. Wait for at least ten minutes before you respond. It will also appear to the recipient that you have perhaps looked into the complaint before responding.

2. Re-read the complaint in a different tone: Words can be powerful but sometimes the intended meaning can be misconstrued on what emotion we are personally using and cause for a potentially undeserved response.

For example read this question in the two different tones:

First as an accusation: “Is there a reason I received a golf hat when I ordered some gloves?”

Now read this question with a playful sarcasm, even in pop a smiley face on the end if that helps! “Is there a reason I received a golf hat when I ordered some gloves? :) ”

3. Acknowledge it: Don’t think if you ignore it or worse yet, delete the comment, the comment and disgruntled customer will just disappear. We promise you, this will provoke more negativity. However uncomfortable you feel and how uncalled for the comment was, it must be acknowledged that you have seen it, read it and are happy to resolve it.

4. Stay professional and get the discussion away from prying eyes: You don’t need to go into detail on your Facebook page for all of your followers to see. This discussion needs to kept between yourself and your customer out of respect for everyone involved, so get it off the public forum!

Acknowledge the complaint with a very general and an unaccountable response and encourage the discussion to be moved towards your private email.

For example: “Hi Jenny, I’m sorry to hear that! If you could private message your details through and also the date you made your purchase, we will look into it and get back to you straight away.”

This gives the customer the reassurance their comment is being looked into and a focus on customer satisfaction for all those Facebook followers who saw the comment.

5. Get Your Facts Straight: Before you engage in any conversation, take a good (and calm) look through all the facts so you have all the information on hand that might be called on.

Assume, in fact the customer may be right and you have made an error. There’s no point in getting defensive or blaming someone else. If it was your fault they received the wrong product, apologise and act on resolving it. Customers usually aren’t interested or have time for excuses.

If it was the customer who got it wrong, don’t make them feel silly. Find a compromise that will keep everyone happy.

For Example: “Hi Jenny, thank you for your email. I’ve had a look through your online purchase order and it looks like you did order the golf hat. I can see how that could of happened as the gloves are right underneath them. If you are able to return the gloves, I’m happy to send through the golf hat.”

A compromise will soften the blow.

6. Every complainant is a potential customer: Be compassionate. We’re all human. Your customer may have had her cat die last week and wasn’t thinking straight when she was shopping online.

There is still no excuse for unnecessary online abuse and if it escalates to this refer to your Facebook settings to remove them.

However, more often than not, your complainant can be appeased if you don’t look to challenge them, instead to turn them. If they receive a resolution to their problem or even just good customer service, you may find they turn out to be one of your best and most loyal customers.

If you need assistance or advice on how to handle Social Media PR, contact us at Shared Marketing.


Case Study

Last year a new play-centre opened up on the Gold Coast to a wonderful reception. Their Facebook page was full of gushing parents singing praise on the fantastic time their children had the centre. Six months after opening, the tides turned. The Centre introduced a policy to charge an entry fee for babies when previously, babies under 6 months old had been free of charge.

This change of policy was announced on their Facebook page with the reasoning that the nappy bins were getting too full too quickly from all of these babies and the centre  had to accommodate extra staff just to change the nappy bins.

There were several things working against this business with this change of policy. Firstly they were charging for a service that had previously been free. Secondly their reason for the fee was directly targeted at one particular market, parents with new babies. Thirdly, you do not mess with mums of new babies.

The floodgates were open and the comments were coming thick fast. Words such as ‘discrimination’ , ‘unfair’ , ‘boycotting’ and ‘disgusting’ were filling up every second post on their facebook page. The post was being shared as quickly as it was receiving comments.

Instead of waiting and making a public post addressing the main and repeating concerns, management engaged in a fierce war of words with each individual comment as it came to surface. This interaction made the responses appear quiet personal towards those whom commented.   This method of communication fueled the fire even more. 

The next day, probably out of mental exhaustion more than anything, an announcement was made that the new policy had been reviewed and they would not be introducing a fee for newborns.

This appeased some, for others, the damage against that business had been done and no doubt ‘Shared’ amongst their friends.

The Post and all of it’s comments were removed altogether a week later.