Brave Social Media Customer Service

How do you deal with customer complaints on social media?

hug your haters book social media customer service

Jay Baer, author of Hug Your Haters and clear advocate of brave social media customer service, says that 90% of customers who complain in a private setting (i.e. phone call, email) expect an answer. But, what about those who complain, rant, rave or simply ask for help via a social media channel?

While some of these folks are just looking for a place to vent and perhaps garner a bit of camaraderie, others moved it to a public platform so they’d get answers.

How do you know which folks to answer? Who is looking for help and who is simply yearning to be heard?

My answer? All of them. You answer all of them.

[Note: Might I say that it’s also important to use your judgment here? Harassing posts without a real complaint or posts that are off-topic shouldn’t necessarily be answered.]

Why should i answer everyone?

  1. Your other followers are watching. What you say or do not say tells every follower you have about your intentions and the heart behind what you do.
  2. It’s possible to turn a livid customer into an avid supporter if you authentically reveal your care and concern for them during a tough time.
  3. Perhaps the most important reason is that you might see beyond yourself and learn something that has the chance to tweak your business for the better.

Social media-based customer service is not about defending your product or service. It’s about finding out what you’re doing wrong so that your product/service can grow. It’s about brave customer service.

I answer tweets for Buffer, which gave me the awesome opportunity to grab some examples of real tweets that I’ve encountered and how I’ve answered them. Although almost every tweet is public on, I blocked out names for added privacy. 

When starting to work in the Twitter environment, answering tweets all day, every day, I quickly learned a strategy to ensure I would answer with careful intention. Wade Lombard’s Stop, Drop and Roll philosophy (written verbatim below) covers a bit of it.

I added a few more steps to Lombard’s so you could see a bit more in-depth. You’ll see my contribution in italics around Lombard’s Stop, Drop, and Roll method.

Steps to Prevent Social Media Customer Service Blunders

  • Listen  Read, but don’t just read – listen. What is the customer really saying? Many times customer communication is a bit brief. What can you infer from their words that will allow you to ask intelligible follow-on questions?
  • Stop – “Don’t respond immediately.  The best advice I’ve received is to sleep on it (although I typically lose sleep over such reviews).  Waiting 24 hours can make all the difference.” -Wade Lombard
  • Research – Look into it. What can you do to help? Is this a malfunction from your product or service, or maybe a common complaint? Check out your company research to find out more details of what is already known so you have more information to come back to the customer with.
  • Drop – “Drop the prideful, defensive and harsh response.  Let a trusted co-worker or friend read through your response before posting.  Remember, taking the high road is rarely a bad idea.” -Wade Lombard
  • Roll – “Roll with it.  In the end, you can’t control the opinions of your clients.  Attempt to mend any valid issues this person presented through their review.  Keep providing the best possible service and products.  Do those things and the more affectionate reviews will exponentially multiply!” -Wade Lombard
  • Save If you use a listening tool that allows you to save your posts (or assign them to yourself), do that! This way, when your customer answers back, you can reply to them right away. If not, perhaps do it the old-fashioned way: with Post-it® Notes or a Word document.

Real Social Media Customer Service Examples

Switched Services

It’s never fun to hear that a customer isn’t interested in your product or service anymore. I think for most, the first instinct is to either ignore this type of post and hope no one else sees it or defend your product or service,  hoping they’ll see ‘the light’ again.

Instead of taking that approach, what if you took the opportunity to learn why this customer didn’t love your company. Keep your chin up! They are offering only one perspective. However, that one perspective might help you see trends down the road.

social media customer service

Support Requests Met With Praise

This praise tweet came in response to a tech support answer I sent. What a happy moment for someone who aims to love on customers every day!

Sometimes it’s fun to take an opportunity like this to send some extra love to your customer by way of swag, a discount code, a retweet, or even just a happy GIF!

Even a small effort can show others how much you care.

social media customer service

Fielding Suggestions

This customer has a pain point that I’ve never heard voiced before. Even though it’s not something I’ve heard, it doesn’t mean others don’t also have the same frustrating experience he does. Feel privileged that someone reached out and meet it with grace.

Having a place to store your product or service suggestions is so important to ensure you’re really listening to your customers and finding those great ideas. We use Trello for this. If you aren’t going to store their suggestion somewhere, please don’t tell your customer that you are.

social media customer service

Not Sure if it’s a Compliment or Disappointment

Hm… Have you ever received a tweet, wall post, or comment that you weren’t quite sure about? Is that a compliment or a complaint? To avoid the embarrassment, many simply ignore the post, thinking the follower might forget they wrote it.

Instead of doing this, consider meeting it straight on. I like to default to responding as if it was a disappointment or complaint so I don’t cause any more tension by replying positively to a down-trodden message. In this case, I was pleasantly surprised by the outcome!

social media customer service

Admit That You’re Not Always Awesome

Social media customer service is all about looking amazing in the public eye, right? Well, sure, but not if it comes at the expense of transparency.

Not everything about your product or service is perfect for all of your customers, and that’s ok. In fact, this is another reason to have a place to store customer feedback. Instead of replying to the same type of tweet over and over, admitting your product or service’s fault, jot it down and (if it’s in the cards), make a plan to improve.

In this case, I thought it was important to let the customer know the workaround for what she was looking for. I then had to admit that the workaround wasn’t the best solution.

The worst thing you can do is to make it sound like the issue they are highlighting as a  pain point isn’t a big deal and can easily be worked around. What if any workaround is uncomfortable?

Defaulting to an apology at the end of your message is generally the best way to preserve relations and get your genuine empathy across.

social media customer service

When You’re Not Sure if it’s Spam

If you have a fairly high flow of incoming tweets, posts, and comments on social media, it’s possible you ignore anything that doesn’t seem relevant. I get that!

Sometimes odd messages come in, “Hey.” is one of those, and below is another example of a DM I wasn’t quite sure about.

Even when confused, I reply with something cheery. Many times, the person replies back asking for help or responding back in another way. This is always validation to even pay attention to the posts you aren’t quite sure about.

social media customer service

Losing a Customer with Grace

It’s going to happen, but it’s never easy. This tweet thread is cut from a longer support tweet in which I asked the customer to update to the latest version of his browser – certainly not ideal.

He wasn’t excited about doing this and mentioned he would have to change tools. This is so unfortunate – a blow to the heart! However, I had a choice in that moment: fight for his service (something that might end up coming across as annoying) or graciously let him go with a sincere apology.

The conversation beyond this screen shot turned a bit more positive, which was very exciting!

social media customer service

Very Unhappy Customer

Some customers will yell at you. Perhaps when you first look at their message you will feel anxious, or maybe even defensive and angry yourself. This is when the notion of ‘Stop’ that Lombard talked about is really important. Think: ‘What did this customer experience prior to posting this?’ When you put yourself in their shoes, your negative feelings will go down and your empathy will raise.

The ideal tone you want to come across to a customer is that you are happy to help and committed to resolving the issue for her. I walked the line on this one and mentioned our support hashtag (which helps me see tweets a bit quicker) right off the bat.

I knew as soon as I sent it that this was a poor decision. The last thing I wanted was for it to come across like she did something wrong. The best scenario would be for me to add that at the end of our resolved conversation.

To feed your curiosity, the DMs between us were great!
We resolved the issue on the spot.

social media customer service

Complaint Not Addressed to You

So what about those passive complaints on social media? Yes, reply to those, too!

If you aren’t sure from their post, find the actual pain point and contemplate whether or not that is something your company should look into changing.

If you are sure of what they’re mentioning, ask a few questions to let them know that you are interested in seeing their perspective and that their feedback is valuable to you.

And the golden nugget, sometimes customers are hoping for a feature that actually already exists! When this happens, it reveals a lack of communication from your end, and once they know the trick, it adds a ton of excitement from theirs.

social media customer service

Reaching out to followers who aren’t directly talking to you in their post is so important! It can lead to a huge opportunity for feature growth.

social media customer service

Social media customer service is sometimes looked at as a wild card. You never know what you’re going to get. It can be scary, as everything you write is under the eyes of so many.

The key is to provide brave social media customer service. This has the potential to get, keep and bring back customers you thought you lost.

What do you think? Is there a philosophy you provide 5-star social media customer service?

Thoughts or Questions?

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