Business Practices | | Published April 16, 2013

How to Handle Complaints on Social Media in Customer Service

The best help desk and customer support teams know that the definition of customer service is constantly changing, today moving toward collaborative customer service.

Collaborative customer service isn’t reserved only for the help desk team; customers are part of the collaboration too. These days customer care has evolved to embrace multichannel support options, giving customers a louder voice via chat, e-mail and social media.

While social media isn’t strictly used for customer service, there’s no denying that a brand’s Twitter feed or Facebook page can be an irresistibly easy place for customers to ask a quick question—or vent their frustration.

Think about the last time you complained about a company on Twitter or Facebook. How quickly did the company respond and let you know they would resolve the issue? If the company’s social media presence is worth its salt, a representative probably responded within an hour or two of your post.

Customers don’t just complain to you when they’re upset. They tell their friends what an awful experience they had or they post it about on Facebook. Sometimes they go on YOUR Facebook to tell you—and all your other customers—how bad you are. Wherever the complaint, you must work to address it…and quickly.

Respond ASAP

As soon as you notice a message on Facebook, Twitter, or another social media site lodging a complaint, you have to react as soon as you can. The longer you wait, the more likely others will see the post and notice there has been no response. This looks bad to potential customers. In fact, it can make it look like your company ignores complaints, even if the message has only been sitting there for a few hours.

So figure out something to say. Even a perfunctory “We’re very sorry for the inconvenience, we’re investigating the matter and will report back soon” can do the trick. At least it’s not an empty response field that makes you look like you don’t care. By acknowledging the problem, you’ve gone a long way towards placating the customer… and all the other customers who might have seen her complaint.

Be Prepared to Hunker Down

Just because you apologized for the problem doesn’t mean it will go away. If the complaint on social media is big enough and you happen to be one of those companies that is incredibly unlucky, the “crowd” could pick up on the story and send it buzzing across the Internet. This means suddenly you’re going to have all sorts of people coming from out of the woodwork to yell at you online.

This is not a time to be flippant! Every single word you post on Facebook or Twitter will be analyzed to death. If you do say something, make sure it’s what you actually want to say and can’t be misconstrued. If you think it will be taken out of context, then it’s best to not post it and just wait. Gather your wits, and then post a well-crafted response that covers everything you’re going to do to fix the issue.

Fix the Issue

Of course this is the big one – make sure you do everything you can do to follow up about the actual issue! You can promise to fix everything all you want but if you don’t actually do it, the issue will come back up with a vengeance.

Occasionally your company’s social media and customer service departments are split into different areas of responsibility. If this is the case, you have to make sure communication between departments is totally clear. Don’t let your social media marketers promise a fix that your engineers can’t implement! If this happens, you could end up eating your words… and losing customers.

Does your customer service team handle social media questions and complaints? Let us know what customer service tips have worked well for you in these kinds of situations.