Social Media Marketing can sometimes be a lot of fun. Especially when you are reaching out to your customers and they are reaching back and engaging with you. It can become not so fun when customers choose to voice their discontent, problems, and disappointment using Facebook, Twitter, or other Social Media outlets. When this happens, the most important thing is of course, doing whatever it takes to make an unhappy customer happy again. Here’s an example of how one of my clients handled this situation. Hopefully it will help guide you in the event when the time comes.

What’s your plan?

It’s not abnormal for me to find out that my clients, who are mostly small business owners, don’t actually have a plan for how they will handle a situation like this. Ultimately, if you don’t have a plan in place for how to handle situations like this, you’ll be caught off-guard, and you may not resolve the issue to the customers liking. The one bit of advice I’ll include in this post about having a plan is this: Make sure your plan empowers the right people to make the customer happy.

If you don’t have a plan for how your business will handle this, check out my post entitled, How to create a Social Media Customer Service Plan.

Acknowledge and Accept Accountability – FAST

If a customer were to walk up to you in person or call you on the phone to make you aware of a problem, what would you normally do? I’m confident that your answer is that you would acknowledge the problem, apologize, and immediately go to work to correct it. This would obviously happen in a matter of moments, right? Such quick action would ultimately lead to making the customer happy again.

With Social Media, you need to take this same approach. Fortunately, Facebook and Twitter offer the benefit of quick notification when someone has posted to your wall or mentioned you in a Tweet. The sooner you respond, the more likely you are going to guide your customer back to a place of happiness.

What method is best for response? When in Rome…

A good general rule here is the old “When in Rome” rule. In case you need a refresher, “When in Rome, do as the Romans do.”

So, if someone comments on your Facebook Wall, reply back to them there. If someone makes an @ mention via Twitter, @ mention them back with a reply.

Below is a screenshot of a conversation between one of my clients and a customer who had a less than positive experience at their restaurant. This is a great visual example of diffusing the issue and immediately acknowledging the problem. More importantly, I like how they immediately voiced the fact that they want to make the customer happy again.
Graphic for How to handle customer complaints on Facebook

*Note: It is perfectly acceptable to request that the conversation go “offline” in order to get things fully resolved. Remember, it’s much easier to detect tone and build trust through voice or face-to-face communication. As well, it’s easier to get all of the details this way.

Transparency – Seize the Opportunity

Some small businesses that I’ve worked with want to immediately react by removing comments like this from their wall. The idea being, they don’t want folks to be influenced by any sort of complaint like this. RESIST THIS URGE!!

Here’s the deal, most customers possess and extend at least a small amount of grace. It’s far better for Facebook Fans or Twitter followers to be able to follow and witness the conversation that leads to a customer becoming happy again. This type of transparency builds highly valuable trust with all of your customers.

Ask the customer to share the resolution

If at all possible influence the customer, who you have hopefully returned to happiness, to share at least a small sign of resolution publicly. In most cases, you won’t even have to ask for this. Why? Because in most cases, people don’t care enough to even tell you there is a problem. The folks who do, also care enough to make sure that everyone knows when the problem has been resolved to their liking.

Ultimately, it’s my hope that you will view situations like this as an opportunity rather than a problem. Regardless, hopefully this will be an example for you and your business to follow.

Question: Have you experienced a situation like this before? Were you the customer or the business in the situation? How did you handle the situation? Please share your answers in the comments below.

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