Pin It

Listen to this post: [sc_embed_player fileurl=”″]

One of the biggest fears companies have is receiving criticism or complaints, especially through social media. These can be difficult to receive, and nobody ever feels quite ready. However, the truth is that the more people you reach, and the bigger your business becomes, the more likely it is that, at some point, someone will complain. Although nobody likes to be the target of a complaint, complaints can be a great catalyst to better customer service and better products, and provide an opportunity for you to prove the strength of your customer service both to the client who is complaining and to anyone who is watching the exchange.

how-to-deal-with-online-complaintsIf a complaint is going to happen, ideally, it would happen privately, and directly. Your unhappy customer or client would reach out to you directly, enabling you to resolve the issue without undue attention.

However, there may come a time where a client chooses to voice their displeasure aloud- and most often this will happen in social media.

Dealing with a public complaint can be difficult if you’re not ready.

Here are four steps you can take to manage a public complaint:

First: Put a response plan in place.

Having guidelines and procedures for all aspects of your business is an important part of being in business. Having a plan in place that encompasses how you’ll respond and who will respond to online complaints is very important.

Your plan should be in writing so that it is easy to refer to. It should include information about who is responsible for managing complaints, a way to categorize and track complaints, and documentation to support the customer service professional (or you) with standard answers to standard issues.

By keeping records of complaints you can easily identify if there is an ongoing problem with that topic, enabling you to improve and avoid future complaints of the same nature. By having responses thought out and written out in advance for common possible issues, you can avoid getting too emotional about it. It also enables you to have others handle or manage the complaint response process, if you choose to.

Second: Stay Calm and Do Not Panic: It’s Not Personal

Seeing your first official complaint on a public forum can be very upsetting. It’s important that you stay calm and realize that most of the time it’s not personal. Do not immediately fire off a rapid response that could make matters worse, allowing emotion to overcome your better business sense.

Instead, evaluate the complaint and determine whether or not it is spam or a legitimate complaint. If it is full of curse words, consider cutting and pasting the complaint to a word-processing program and taking out the colorful language. Is there anything concrete left that you can deal with? If not, it’s spam and you can freely delete it and block the person without further comment.

However, if it is a real complaint that you can offer some sort of cohesive response to in a positive manner, do so.

Third: Be Transparent in Your Answers Because People Are Watching

Whether it’s spam or not, the world is watching and waiting to see how you will deal with this issue. Do not deflect or try to defend yourself. It doesn’t matter what kind of business you have, responding negatively can ruin your business. No matter how angry a customer is, if you respond appropriately you might be surprised to find out that you can turn it around.

I had this happen to me once on Facebook. Someone posted on my wall that they really were getting a lot of value out of my book, and someone posted a nasty comment almost right away. I responded appropriately and decisively, and the nasty commenter actually ended up buying a copy of my book within the next 30 minutes. This doesn’t always happen, but it does demonstrate that effective and rapid response can sometimes turn a situation around.

Even if you cannot turn around the complaining customer, you will turn around those who are observing and watching. The complaint might have frightened some potential customers from using your services, but when they see your positive, helpful and thoughtful response they will have something more to consider.

Fourth: Respond As Soon As Possible but Not Too Fast

Don’t fire off a response immediately to any complaint. Always try to figure out how best to formulate your response so that it is useful, helpful and positive. By accepting responsibility for an error and giving a public apology, your business will earn trust points from your audience even when a mistake has happened.

Therefore, take the time to word the response in the most thoughtful way possible, avoiding triggering words and fighting language. Saying you provide excellent customer care and demonstrating that you do are two very different things. You can actually turn a customer complaint into a positive outcome if you are ready.