4 Steps to Calming Angry Customers

Photo courtesy of Flickr user: hang_in_there

Photo courtesy of Flickr user: hang_in_there

If you’re on social media you’ve probably run across tweets or Facebook posts complaining about bad service or poor products. You cringe every time you see harsh complaints splattered across the Internet, cross your fingers, and hope it doesn’t happen to your business.

Then it does. An unhappy customer takes to social to loudly complain about your business. How to react?

First, don’t. Take a breath, step away from the computer before you say something defensive or inappropriate and make the situation worse. Once your head is clear and you are calm, go back to the computer. The first thing you need to remember is:

When a customer complains, it means they have a problem and you haven’t yet provided the solution. Here’s what to do.

1. Assess the situation
What is the customer complaining about? Strip out the emotions and figure out what is the basic problem behind the complaint. Complaints usually fall under one of these categories:

  • Promises not kept
  • Lack of customer service
  • Rude staff
  • Surprise costs or information
  • Low quality product or service
  • Not resolving issues quickly
  • Unable to contact company

2. Reach out to the customer
You need to respond as quickly as you can. As long as you are calm. Answer the customer where they made the complaint. If on Twitter, send a tweet; if on Facebook, answer their post. Not sure what to say or where to start? Then begin with:

“Hi [person’s name], this is [your name]. I’m sorry about the issue you’re having. I’m looking into it now and will respond ASAP. If you have more details to give me, contact me at [email].”

After you have assessed the situation, hop back on to social media to answer the complaint or problem. The key here is to see the complainer as a real person and help them see you as a real person. Use your name and speak to them like a human being, not like a robot.

3. Offer a solution
Once you’ve identified the problem, offer a solution. This is not the time to hide behind ‘company policy!’ Do not in any way imply or state the problem is the customer’s fault—for not knowing a return policy, for not understanding how a product works, or for using a service the wrong way.

4. Keep the conversation going where people can see it
Airing dirty laundry in public is never fun or easy, but in today’s world it’s bound to happen. Don’t make the mistake of trying to immediately take the problem ‘offline,’ through email or a phone call. The wider world can’t see you solving the problem. Continue the conversation on social and let the world see that you care about your customers’ problems and that you will do what you can to solve them quickly and equitably. If the issue isn’t quickly resolved, then take it offline.

It’s easy to get defensive when dealing with a customer complaint, but I challenge you to look at it another way: see it as a learning experience that will make your business better and stronger!

About Lisa Karl

Lisa Karl is a Partner at Savvy Digital Business, a social media strategy consulting and training firm. The foundation of SDB is to help small business owners discover the best way to connect with their customers online, and through those connections, grow their business. Previous to founding SDB, Lisa was a consultant to small and medium size businesses, developing and implementing marketing strategy plans. Visit her blog to learn more about social strategy, and you can connect with her on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Pinterest, YouTube, and LinkedIn.

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2 Responses to 4 Steps to Calming Angry Customers

  1. SocialBrothers December 10, 2014 at 10:31 am #

    Great article! So often small businesses are afraid to get involved with social media because they feel they are going to get all of these negative comments. The truth is that it doesn’t happen as often as one might think and when it does it’s usually a real problem that should be resolved anyways.

    • Lisa December 10, 2014 at 2:05 pm #

      Thanks! You’re so right, so many small companies see what happens when people go after the ‘big dogs.’ Solving customer service issues is the same on and off line.

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