When Comments Turn Into Complaints: Dealing With Consumers On Social

July 15, 2021

When was the last time you complained to a brand using Facebook or Twitter? Last month? A day? Several minutes ago? How did the brand respond? Were you satisfied with their answer? Could the brand have done better in handling your complaint?

For many consumers today, social media has become the go-to platform to air a concern or grievance – a digital hotline if you will. This is of great interest to businesses, especially when you consider how many people use social media. According to Oberlo, there are about 3.78 billion social media users worldwide. What’s more interesting is that 54% of those users use social media to research their purchases.

So if the data says that social media is crucial to building customer service relationships , why aren’t companies committing themselves to this endeavor? It is strange that many brands only see Facebook, Instagram and Twitter as platforms for advertising messages and not as channels for dialogue. If you’re a brand custodian, you have to buy into the big picture and it is clear: answer, engage or lose your customers. Adopt and the payoffs will be great in the long run.

So how do you talk to a consumer when he/she escalates a complaint?


Be a Professional

When handling complaints online, check your emotions and leave biases at the door. If an irate customer tells you that your product or service sucks, be calm, understand the problem and give a proper response.


Write Right

Be mindful of how you craft your answers to complaints – a poorly-worded and sloppily-written reply can mean the difference between an angry customer and one that you just lost. Tone and manner must be strictly in accordance with your brand guidelines.


Respond Fast

While the average response time for brands is 10 hours, the average user will only wait 4 hours for a reply so take action right away.

Since customers often post the same types of complaints, you can draft prepared answers to expedite your response time. But don’t just copy and paste messages. Be authentic. Customize each response to the customer and the problem in question.


Answer Every Complaint

As much as possible, brands must acknowledge each complaint posted on its social media pages. And while it may be physically impossible to answer every one of them at any given time, it is imperative that you take time to resolve actionable problems.


Say Sorry

On social media, there is perhaps no bigger sin than a brand’s inability to admit its mistakes. If you are at fault, own up to it and make a formal apology if necessary.

To demonstrate the value of customer service in social media, here’s what we did for one of our clients, an international food and beverage company, during one of their biggest promotions in 2017. To celebrate their anniversary in the business, they gave away their flagship product at a ridiculously low price.

As expected, long lines started to form in all of their major stores and people waited for hours on end. But unfortunately for the client, supply could not meet demand and soon, their social media page was swamped with irate customers:

  1. Over 100,000 negative comments
  2. Over 3,000 people chose to unlike the page

As soon as the negative comments came in, we moved quickly and acknowledged every post regarding the promotion, organized them into categories:

  1. Supportive comments
  2. Claimed products
  3. Long lines
  4. Disappointed comments
  5. Out of stock
  6. Early cut-off
  7. No coupon given
  8. No response from manager
  9. Disrespectful staff
  10. Inquiries

Based on the categories, we carefully crafted the responses for each type of complaint. Here are a few samples

  1. Hi (name). All our promos are available only until supplies last and are on a first-come, first-served basis. Have we given you coupons yesterday while you were lining up?

(If user answers YES) Great! Feel free to claim our product within the coupon’s validity.

(If user answers NO) We hope we can make it up to you at another visit! A lot of people indeed got a sugar rush during our anniversary that our stocks, even frequently replenished, didn’t meet the demand.

  1. Hello (name). Have we asked for your name so we can contact you when supplies are available? Hope you can wait a little longer – you’ll surely hear from us and get that craving satisfied.
  2. Hello (name). A lot of you surely gave in to the awesome rush during our promotion that, although our stocks were frequently replenished, we couldn’t meet the Sorry and thank you for waiting. We all know that good things come to those who wait and we’ll make it up to you.

With the client’s help, we gave away freebies to those who weren’t able to avail of the promotion:

  1. Users who gave positive comments received complimentary products
  2. Users who posted complaints were given gift stubs which they can use to claim their complimentary products at a later date

While the brand did lose some of its fans, we were able to quickly defuse the situation. The client later uploaded a letter of apology for its oversight and has since moved on.


Hi, Can I Troll Your Brand Today?

While there are customers who can be quite a handful on social media, there are those who, quite frankly, are not worth your time. You know them simply as trolls.

You know what they are. You probably know someone who is one.Perhaps you might have been an internet troll yourself in the not-so-distant past. You can find them lurking everywhere, in all shapes and sizes.

Trolls are the digital equivalent of a heckler – they’re there to insult, ridicule and argue with you for no apparent reason.

Dealing with distasteful online commentary and behaviour from trolls can be a nightmare. But the job is the job and with proper planning and action, you can protect your brand from these digital hooligans.So, why do they do what they do?


You Don’t Know Me, Right? Good!

Remember that person who’s constantly whining on your page for no particular reason? He’s probably not using his real social media account. It’s just one of many he’s created just to indulge in a kind of antisocial behaviour that American social psychologist Leon Festinger calls deindividuation. Simply put, a person is more likely to do something crazy if he/she cannot be personally identified.


Everybody’s Doing It So Why Not

Mob mentality. Herd mentality. Peer pressure. Whatever you want to call it, it is a powerful shaper of behaviour. With just a single message from a troll, people’s attitudes and opinions can be changed. And before you know it, another troll is born, driven by emotion, ignorance and misinformation.


Some People Just Want To Watch The World Burn

Need we say more?

So what do you do if a troll drops by your social media page? We suggest handling it with finesse, tact and, if your brand guidelines allow, use a bit of humor.

You’ve probably heard the expression, “Don’t feed the troll.” For the most part, this is true. Why waste time on people who revel in conflict and controversy, right?But a troll that is left unchecked on your social media page will leave you vulnerable to more of the same. How?

There is this theory on social disorder called the Broken Windows Theory which states that serious crime is a result of a previous chain of events. So a house with broken windows is more likely to be defaced and burglarized in the near future. 

In social media, if your community management team is unable to deal with trolls properly, expect serious repercussions. Ever been to a Facebook page flooded with posts on pyramid schemes and network marketing? These posts are a form of trolling too and are the result of the community management team’s inability to handle its business.

We believe that what really matters is what you feed the troll. Instead of flaming or ignoring them, here’s what you can do:


Be Objective

If the trolls you encounter are truly unreasonable, then be their exact opposite. Be composed. Be logical. Debate with numbers and truths. When done properly, you will come off as the bigger person in front of everybody and trolls hate that.


Be Kind

Not all trolls are trolls. Some may just be having a bad day at the office or at home and in their anger, they decided to dump their frustrations on you. So offer a polite response and engage them as you would a friend or relative if they were in the exact same situation.

While not all trolls will respond to kindness, it always pays to try. Now, if you’ve exhausted all means at a resolution, then you can consider permanently banning that person from your page as a last resort.

Need help managing your brand’s consumers online? Send us an email and we’ll help you build your customer care strategies from the ground up.

About the Author:

Jeff Bartolome is veteran of the advertising industry, having been in PR, ATL, BTL, TTL and now, DGTL. He’s worked with Volvo, Mazda, Philips, Philamlife, Intel, Shell and Unionbank, to name a few. Some of his best work came by way of soda and a huge can of pork and beans.

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