Handling Customer Complaints Over Social Media

It happens to the best of us. You do your best to offer high quality service and great products to your customers, but eventually you will have a displeased customer. Often this will be no fault of your own. It could be a failure with your shipping company, unrealistic service expectations, or a glitch in coding but in reality the problem isn’t what matters. What matters is how you resolve it. So, what do you do when a customer complains publicly on your Facebook or Twitter?

Customer Complaint
photo credit: Automotivespace via photopin cc

Respond Immediately

No matter what the complaint is, even if you feel it is unwarranted and ridiculous, you must respond immediately. In order to respond immediately, you must be always listening. The complaint might be vague, but you need to respond in some fashion. The spotlight is on you now, and the world is watching.

Be Personal

When responding make sure you address the customer by name. Talk to them on a personal level. Nobody likes talking to a robot. Especially when they are upset. Which response would you rather hear? “Sorry for the inconvenience, we are looking into the issue” or “Hi John, I’m sorry you are having issues accessing your account. We are actively working on getting the problem solved right away. Are you getting any error codes?” Both responses say essentially the same thing, but one will go much further than the other.

Understand the Real Problem

Rarely have I seen an upset customer give all the details necessary of the issue of their problem. Ask probing questions. Dig deeper. The better you understand what went wrong, the more likely that you can fix the issue and turn an upset customer into a customer for life. Often times you will have to take this part private, but that is very easy through DM’s and FB messaging. Worst case, you could always take the old fashioned approach and just email them…I guess.

Make Sure the Problem Gets Fixed

Seems redundant, right? Once you tell a customer you are working on fixing the issue, you should well…fix the issue. Sadly, this is an area that I have seen a few companies fail. They respond right away, get all the necessary info, tell me that they’re going to fix the problem, but then I never hear from them again. The rep must have felt great for putting out a “social media fire” short term, but without fixing the issue, it’s just going to be much worse for the company the next time around.

Keep it simple, Always do what you say you will do.

Have you ever had a customer complain over your social channels? What advice would you recommend for handling an upset customer?

Rich Cottle
Rich Cottle is a Husband, Father, Director of Sales & Marketing for Bundle Post, Passionate about Social Media, Proponent of Guerrilla Marketing, Avid Outdoorsman and Ham Radio Operator.
Rich Cottle
Rich Cottle

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  1. says

    Great advice Rich! I think one of the biggest problems I have seen with some big brands is, they don't respond to customer service issues via Social Media, which makes it look like they don't care about the consumer… Not good!

  2. says

    Good read Rich and in in agreement that response need quick. Even if it is "I do not know but will get back with you on…" then get back with them! However even though the customer is "Not" always right, they need to be made to feel that way and it starts with listen!

    • says

      Thanks Man.
      Yeah, a quick response even if it's "Wow, we have no idea what happened but will look into it ASAP" can go a long way. You are correct, the customer isn't always right, but they do deserve your full attention no matter what.

  3. says

    The new Nielsen social media study says that 47% of social media users prefer to use social care for customer service over calling customer service phone lines. Looks like this is a growing trend, Rich.

    • says

      I think that's great. Thanks for sharing that info, Elaine. I can understand why. I can easily carry on many more conversations at the same time as working to resolve the issue if it is done over social media.

  4. says

    Excellent post Rich, I especially like the part about doing what you said you will.

    The type of customer who takes the time to write a complaint a companies social media network is the same type of customer who will praise and advocate a company on social media networks.

    This is why, as you mentioned "fix the issue and turn an upset customer into a customer for life". And most likely a brand advocate (recommending your business to friends) for life as well, if their complaint is handled correctly, that is.

    Most of the time people just want to feel like they are being listened to, which is why not responding like a robot is also a good idea!

  5. says

    Thanks man. Yes, it is the same type of people who complain that will also shout from the rooftops how awesome you are, so it's important to treat them right…and listen.

  6. says

    It’s rather simple, isn’t it! These strategies are good for social media – and traditional business. By the way, that girl in the picture scares me! (HA!) Seriously, enjoyed the article. Thank you!

  7. pckeano says

    Simple but effective. It really does make you wonder why SO MANY companies are still looking at social as purely a marketing and/or PR route instead of listening to customers and actually acknowledging the fact that they're reaching out for help!

    In fact, although there are a lot of studies showing that more and more people are looking to social as their primary contact source, I still believe that – at present – a majority don't. Therefore, when they land on social with their query, it's more than likely because they haven't been helped elsewhere and will already be frustrated!

    All the more reason to just be human about it and respond!

  8. Karen says

    You make a lot of good points.

    I think the issue though, with big companies, is that the person running the social media outlets cannot really fix the problems. They can bring them to the attention of the right people, but if you have hundreds of stores or branches, it would be impossible to fix all these problems. So the customers remain unhappy and the poor social media coordinator is left to deal with the shortcomings of customer service.

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