Previously we covered the three types of people that you will encounter leaving negative comments about your brand: Angry customers, passionate fans and trolls. Check out that post for help on how to identify each and advice on how to respond to each.
Today, I wanted to do a deeper dive into how your brand should respond to a complaint you encounter from an angry customer. An angry customer typically is complaining about one specific event. They have usually tried to resolve the issue on their own by searching Google or trying to contact your customer service department online, etc. They are reaching out to you now cause they feel they have no other options left. So here’s what you need to know when responding to angry customers online:
Things to Remember When Responding to Angry Customers Online
1 – Have empathy for the angry customer. They are frustrated and angry. So understand their mindset when you encounter them. Yes, they will likely be upset and might even act pissy toward you. But that’s because they feel that your brand has let them down. They’ve probably already tried to solve the problem themselves, and cannot. We have all been there from time to time. We buy a new product and we are trying to set up or install it and we are trying to follow the instructions and it’s not working. We probably feel dumb and we definitely are mad at the brand that made us feel dumb! So when you encounter an angry customer, you need to understand why they are angry and sympathize with their feelings. Take them seriously and do what you can to help them as quickly as possible.
2 – Respond as quickly as possible. This is paramount. The faster you address and resolve a customer complaint online, the chances of you converting that angry customer into a passionate fan goes up exponentially. On the flipside, the longer you let the complaint sit there, the greater of the chance it will attract more complaints and then suddenly instead of dealing with one customer complaint, you are tasked with handling 5 of 10. A small problem can quickly escalate into a social media firestorm if you wait too long to act. HubSpot reports that 39% of social media users expect a response to an issue raised within an hour. That only happens if your company is proactively monitoring online for customer complaints.
3 – Listen and emphasize with the person leaving the comment. Go back and read what the customer has posted and do research to figure out what happened that led them to complaining directly to or about your brand. For example, if you see a customer tweet about a negative experience with your brand, check their blog and see if they have also written about the incident there as well. You want to try to figure out everything you can about the situation because you don’t want to jump to conclusions about what prompted the person to respond. Think of this as ‘social media triage’, you are trying to figure out what happened, and why it happened, so that you can better treat the problem moving forward.
4 –Thank the person for leaving the comment. Even if the comment is negative, the customer has done you a favor by bringing the problem to your brand’s attention because now it can be addressed. Many customers would just stop doing business with your brand and move to a competitor. Plus this helps you reframe the exchange as being an opportunity for your brand, instead of being a burden.
5 –Show respect to the customer and do not lose your cool! Even if you think the customer is completely wrong, keep in mind that you might the one who’s wrong! So keep an open mind and don’t lose your temper when dealing with them. Keep in mind that other people will be watching your exchange with this person. If you lose your temper and smart off to them, it not only invites more complaints, it makes your brand look terrible. But if you are helpful and courteous, that reflects well on both you personally and your brand! Doing so can even encourage your fans to come to your brand’s defense!
6 – You are within your rights to politely correct any misinformation that the customer has left about you or your brand. This can often happen and the chance that it will is magnified if you don’t respond and let additional comments come in. Here’s an example of how this can get away from a brand (and how they saved the day by replying smartly).
7 – Make sure the customer(s) understand that you are going to address their complaints, and inform them of what the next steps are. You want to communicate to everyone that you take this issue seriously, and that you have a plan to address it. This also helps to extinguish the chances of further negative comments, which often come as a result of inactivity by the brand. Simply communicating to the customer that you’ve heard them, and now you are going to do something, will put the angry customer at ease. Of course, you still have to follow through with action that addresses the customer’s concerns.
8 – Give everyone a way to stay in touch with you, and invite further feedback. You want to make sure the issue is handled to the satisfaction of everyone, and again, by asking for additional feedback you are communicating to everyone that you take this issue seriously.
By following these steps you are doing everything you can to address the customer’s concern and turn a potential negative situation into a positive for your brand.