Customers complaining on Twitter and Facebook – how should you respond?

16 February 2011 By Northern Lights

Customers complaining on Twitter and Facebook – how should you respond? image
Image courtesy of Miles

Image courtesy of Miles

How many people do you tell if you’ve had poor customer service?  It used to be around 20, but that was before the internet.

Now instead of simply telling their friends, disgruntled customers can turn to consumer forums and social media to leave feedback about anything from a substandard meal to poor delivery service from a High Street retailer.  These days you can add several 000s to that figure of 20 and your complaint can go global.

1. Where are customers complaining in social media?

In recent months several people I know have turned to social media to vent their frustration about poor customer service.  One person used Twitter to complain about her treatment at the hands of theatre management and two other people turned to Facebook to complain publically about non-delivery of online grocery orders from two different supermarket chains.

I’ve joined in too, leaving a comment on Foursquare about an inedible meal at a London restaurant that had been praised by several food critics.

Suddenly we all have the wherewithal to be reviewers with opinions that count – at least to other consumers.  Businesses that are spending tens of thousands of pounds on marketing and public relations may suddenly find they are getting the wrong kind of customer response.

So what do you do?  You might be like Duncan Bannatyne and decide to sue.  The Dragon’s Den panellist is threatening to sue TripAdvisor over a negative review about his upmarket hotel.   But is this the right approach – and if not, what should you do?

Look upon consumer forums and social media as opportunities to get customer feedback that could help you improve your business.  Yes, of course there will be some professional complainers but don’t dismiss all criticism as simply ranting.  Maybe chef was having a bad day, perhaps your receptionist does need some additional training and maybe your service could have been more efficient.

2. Monitor online conversations

There are a number of ways to monitor who is saying what about your business – these are both free

  • Set up Tweetdeck with your business name and key words or phrases
  • Google Alerts will send emails when they spot your business on web pages and newspapers

3. Listen to online complaints

If someone uses social media to complain about your business then listen to them and respond. Engage with them openly online.  If you try to take the conversation offline – for example direct messaging on Twitter or Facebook – you risk making the matter worse.  Ask for more details, offer  to put it right and apologise.

4. Online complaints need speedy handling

You have sensibly appointed an employee to monitor online mentions of your business but what happens if they spot a customer criticism?  If they dither over what to do for just a couple of hours one comment could have turned into a discussion.  Make sure that you ‘empower’ your employee, giving them the necessary training and authority to respond quickly and appropriately to any critical Tweets or Facebook posts.

How are you responding to what your customers are saying about you online?  Have you managed to turn an online criticism around to a loyal customer?

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Written by Northern Lights

1 Comment

  • Storytelling is part of our human nature. We all like sounding off to friends and colleagues when we have had a bad experience with an organisation and the beautiful world wide web allows us to extend our reach to many millions!
    Smart organisations want customers leaving with GOOD stories to tell. That requires a cultural shift in how to handle things when they go wrong for the customer, better training on the technical and soft people skills. Organisations must learn how to recover the service, and turn any problem into an opportunity to wow the customer.Customers want to be heard, and if organisations can’t delliver at the point of purchase or experience, then customers will make their voices heard wherever they can. Ignore at your peril.
    Good Story to finish…..
    This afternoon I just bought a very expensive set of headphones as a surprise gift for my husband from BOSE. The service was superb. The retail assistant was interested in my reason for purchasing, asked good questions and let me try different headsets listening to Mr Bojangle! They were set up to sell and I will defintely go back.A great experience. Wouldn’t it be lovely if all our retail experiences were like that!

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