How to Diffuse Customer Complaints on Social Media

Recently, I was scrolling through my Facebook feed when I came across a post by an acquaintance of mine who is a business owner. He was expressing disdain at a Yelp review left by a customer, and rather defensively, I might add. This post was on his private Facebook page.

At the risk of outing anyone, I won’t go into details about the nature of the business or the review. However, I can say that this is a service business where customers show up at specific times to receive a service.

Out of curiosity, I visited the business’s Yelp page to read said review. In a nutshell, the customer said she showed up at the right time and what she thought was the right place, only to find a locked door. And now the post is living there on the Yelp page, unaddressed.

Now, obviously, I don’t know if this customer’s complaint is legitimate or not. It doesn’t even matter. All that matters is that a customer took the time to write a less-than-glowing review. What happened next was an opportunity to diffuse the situation in a very public way, or to pretend like it never happened. In this case, the review is out there for the public to see, with no response from the business owner. And worst of all, the business owner took to his own Facebook page to complain about the review, to the support and cheers of his friends.

You’re Only Hurting Yourself

You might get temporary relief from venting to friends when a customer complains about you. By all means, chat with them privately about how much you can’t stand when customers do XYZ. But for the love of everything holy, keep it off your social media pages, even those you think are private. And for sure don’t get unruly when you respond to a customer directly.

It just doesn’t make you look professional when you come across as defensive, even in a so-called “private” environment such as your personal Facebook page. You never know who is reading your posts. I mean honestly, I read the post myself and am pretty disappointed at the lack of professionalism. It’s not likely I would frequent this business knowing that I could become the target of the owner’s rants in the event I have a complaint.

If you’re going to own a business, know that at some point, you will need to deal with customer complaints. The way you handle them can either help or harm you. If you handle them promptly, courteously and kindly with the goal of bettering your business, everyone wins. If you have an attitude that your customer is foolish for even having a concern, eventually people are going to catch on that you can’t take criticism, and they’ll go elsewhere, to your competitors that keep a cool head in customer service situations.

If you're going to own a business, at some point, you will need to deal with customer complaints. Click To Tweet

About That Cool Head …

Customer complaints and negative online reviews can come up unexpectedly anytime. It’s critical that you have a way of handling them before they blow up into major reputation-management nightmares. This article from The Atlantic has some good tips about handling Yelp reviews specifically, and in general, follow these tips to get complaints addressed efficiently:

Tip #1: Act Fast.

Aim to respond to customer complaints within an hour. Even if you don’t have all the answers yet, you at least want to acknowledge that you are listening and happy to help. If it’s a situation that you can clear up quickly without a lot of interaction, post something right away so both your customer and anyone reading the post can see your response. If the situation requires further discussion, ask the customer to message you offline with contact information.

And then approach the next interaction with the goal of resolving the complaint to the customer’s satisfaction. Acknowledge and apologize for any mistakes on your part, and promise to do better next time. Empathize with the customer and take defensiveness out of the equation (remember, it just makes you look bad).

Note: If you need a quicker way to see that you’ve got a negative online review, get in touch with us at sales@rallio.com. We have a couple of different technologies that can alert you when these reviews land.

Tip #2: Be Genuine.

Canned responses have no place on social media (or anywhere, in my opinion). Take the time to address the concern authentically, personalizing it to the situation. It’s like when you’re on hold and a voice comes on to say “Your call is important to us. Please continue to hold and we’ll be with you shortly.” Does it make you want to throw the phone across the room? Thought so.

Now how about when a real human gets on the phone and talks to you kindly and courteously? Do you feel validated, maybe even breathe a sigh of relief?

Yeah. It’s like that on social media, too. Be real.

Tip #3: Create a System.

If you don’t have a system in place for handling complaints, it’s easy to have knee-jerk reactions or for your employees to do so. To avoid such situations, create a document that details what to do when the squeaky wheels start spinning.

This document should list all of the people authorized to handle customer complaints along with their contact information. Organize it in “chain of command” fashion so that employees know the correct point of contact for different types of complaints, from the tame to the more irate. That way, responses will always be timely and handled by the appropriate person.

Tip #4: Be Amazing.

Don’t stop at handling the complaint. Go above and beyond to not only resolve the complaint, but also to make the customer feel significant and appreciated. Your customer might just end up loving you and telling everyone about your stellar service. Remember, a freebie such as a free cup of coffee goes a long way toward generating good will and a loyal customer!

Don't stop at handling the complaint. Go above and beyond. #CustomerService Click To Tweet

Tip #5: Follow Up.

Don’t assume an issue is resolved once you’ve handled a customer’s complaint. Wait a few days, and follow up to be sure the matter has been adequately addressed. Not only will you ensure complete customer satisfaction, but you’ll also get a chance to gather feedback that you can apply to future customer service situations.


What’s one customer complaint you’ve handled effectively? How about one you’d like a do-over on?