It’s every business owner’s special armpit-sweat-inducing nightmare – the one minute you are happily working away, the next you are in the midst of an online mudslinging contest with a disgruntled client who decided to use social media as their own personal soapbox with you and your business as their target.

Yes, we know, it’s exhausting. Ideally you’d like to just delete the post, sweep the whole bloody mess under the carpet, drown your sorrows and forget all about it. We are here to tell you that doing so would be a big mistake. Sorry my friend, online complaints are the one area where you have to bite the bullet, drink down a nice big cup of harden the heck up and face the firing squad head on.

To make things a little easier, here is our tried-and-tested method for dealing with social media complaints:

  1. Ensure that you are aware of any & all online complaints

This might seem a little superfluous – surely if somebody takes the time to voice a complaint online they will do the decent thing and tag you so you can respond? Oh contraire mon ami! Research has shown that more than one-third of all tweets to companies were about customer service issues, but that only three percent incorporated the company’s Twitter username with the @ symbol. What this means is that you have to invest in either a) software that catches the untagged mentions or b) professional ORM services.

  1. Show compassion

This is possibly the most difficult part, but it is imperative that you display empathy. The reason this person has taken to a public forum to air their grievances is because they want recognition – they want to be heard. As such, it won’t do to start an angry discussion that will only escalate the issue. Stay calm (this is hard, we know) and answer the statement/query confidently and politely. Do not copy and paste a stock answer; it very rarely conveys the level of empathy necessary to diffuse a delicate situation.

  1. Answer on the platform they used (publicly), but only twice & then switch channels

Online customer service is a spectator sport, which is why it is important that you reply to a negative comment where the rest of the web can see you doing so. Answering in private initially means you waste an opportunity to gain trust capital by being open and transparent. There are no guarantees that the person on the other end will be civil, but this gives you the opportunity to showcase you brand values, beliefs and temperament.

Now, here’s the important bit – only respond in public twice. If the disgruntled customer does not cool down or allow you to fix the situation after two responses you are within your rights to take the discussion offline. Normally by this time you will need some sensitive information (their ID, username, etc.) to take care of their complaint, which means you have to take the conversation to a private platform.

Once you have the customer on a private channel (e.g. Facebook Messenger, email, telephone), you have the opportunity to speak to them in person and sort the situation out as best you can. If, however, they are not giving you the courtesy of following you there, there is precious little you can do to remedy the situation and your online spectators will be able to surmise as much.

Online reputation management can be very tricky. Not sure whether you have a handle on it? Get in touch for an obligation-free discussion of what we can offer in terms of keeping your business’ online nose squeaky clean.