The Dos and Don'ts of Addressing Customer Complaints Via Social Media

The important thing to remember is that maintaining your brand and reputation does not involve blasting customers online.

We've all seen it in one online place or another. An irate customer posts a poor review on Yelp or launches a Twitter tirade against a business, only for the targeted party to make a public response. Sometimes it goes well and everyone ends up happy. Other times, it leads to a meltdown.


Addressing customer complaints is now a major arm of any companies' social media strategy. But sometimes, businesses cross the line. Things get said that shouldn't be said and a company ends up with egg all over its face. You really don't want to have to deal with that sort of situation.

Luckily, Peter Gasca has a great piece up at Entrepreneur right now with suggestions for how you can avoid becoming the next major social media pariah. It all starts with checking your ego at the door:

"For many entrepreneurs, a complaint is often taken personally, so the inclination might be to fire back an equally angry or passive-aggressive retort, or to delete the unwelcome message altogether.

This will only make angry customers angrier and more likely to take the “fight” to other platforms."

You may remember this story from last month about an upscale hotel that saw its Yelp reputation tarnished after news got out that it levied fines to wedding parties in the event of a poor review written by an attendee. An angry internet horde quickly descended on the Yelp page to air its grievances. The hotel's rating, and therefore one of its major marketing tools, was decimated within hours. This all could have been avoided if the owners hadn't let their egos dictate business strategy.

Instead, Gasca recommends approaching complaints and criticism with a degree (or at least an air) of understanding. If you feel a comment necessiates a response, you can either try and take the conversation out of the public eye via direct message or phone call, or you can post a public reply while making sure your tone is courteous and empathetic. Never blast someone online, especially while logged into an official company Twitter account. Also, don't just delete complaints without addressing them. These are textbook strategies for escalating an unwanted situation.

The best types of responses are ones that take accountability and offer a suggestion for mutual reconciliation. You should equip angry customers with the essential tools by which they can achieve satisfaction. Pacify them with your professionalism. Devote yourself to fixing the problem and then reopen communication when the problem has been fixed. Your Twitter or Facebook page represents the voice of your brand. Don't let the mouth spew anything that will reflect poorly on the face.

Sometimes though, situations arise where it's in a company's best interest to tactfully vent frustration online. Gasca recommends an approach similar to that of Liberty Bottleworks, a company that last year saw its deft response to an unreasonable customer complaint go viral on Reddit. If you're in the right, stand up for yourself while communicating your message and explaining your company's ethics. 

Just remember: we live in an age of intense scrutiny. Don't give the public any reason to draw unwanted eyes to your business. Do establish a protocol for maintaining a helpful and courteous online presence.

Read more at Entrepreneur

Photo credit: animalphotography.ch / Shutterstock

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As you vote, keep in mind that we are looking for a winner with the most engaging social venture pitch - an idea you would want to invest in.

Lumina Foundation and Big Think have partnered to bring this entrepreneurial competition to life, and we hope you'll participate! We have narrowed down the competition to four finalists and will be announcing an audience's choice award and a judges' choice award in May.

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Thank you to all of the contestants who spent time submitting applications, and best of luck to our final four competitors.

Finalist: Greater Commons - Todd McLeod

Greater Commons, founded by Todd McLeod and Andrew Cull, is an organization that helps people live happier, more successful and fulfilling lives through agile learning. The current education system is inefficient and exclusionary, in which many students who end up earning a degree, if at all, enter a career not related to their field of study. Greater Commons solves this problem and gap in post-high school secondary education in a variety of ways. Passionately and diligently, Great Commons helps others obtain skills, knowledge, wisdom, motivation, and inspiration so that they may live better lives.

Finalist: PeerFoward - Keith Frome

PeerForward is an organization dedicated to increasing the education and career success rates of students in low-income schools and communities by mobilizing the power of positive peer influence. PeerForward works with partner schools to select influential students as a part of a team, systemizing the "peer effect." Research in the fields of sociology of schools, social-emotional learning, adult-youth partnerships, and civic education demonstrates that students can have a positive effect on the academic outcomes of their peers. PeerForward is unique through its systemic solutions to post-secondary education.

Finalist: Cogniss - Leon Young

Cogniss combines technology and best practice knowledge to enable anyone to innovate and share solutions that advance lifelong learning. Cogniss is the only platform to integrate neuroscience, through which it solves the problem of access by providing a low-code platform that enables both developers and non-developers to build sophisticated education apps fast, and at a much lower cost. It addresses the uneven quality of edtech solutions by embedding research-based learning design into its software. App creators can choose from a rich set of artificial intelligence, game, social and data analytics, and gamification to build their perfect customized solution.

Finalist: Practera - Nikki James

Practera's mission is to create a world where everyone can learn through experience. Today's workplaces are increasingly dynamic and diverse, however, costly and time-consuming experiential learning is not always able to offer the right opportunities at scale. Many students graduate without developing the essential skills for their chosen career. Practera's team of educators and technologists see this problem as an opportunity to transform the educational experience landscape, through a CPL pedagogical framework and opportunities to apply students' strengths through active feedback.

Thank you to our judges!

Our expert judges are Lorna Davis, Dan Rosensweig, and Stuart Yasgur.

Lorna Davis is the Senior Advisor to Danone CEO and is a Global Ambassador for the B Corp movement. Lorna has now joined B-Lab, the non-for-profit that supports the B Corporation movement on an assignment to support the journey of large multi nationals on the path to using business as a force of good.

Dan Rosensweig joined Chegg in 2010 with a vision for transforming the popular textbook rental service into a leading provider of digital learning services for high school and college students. As Chairman and CEO of Chegg, Dan commits the company to fulfilling its mission of putting students first and helping them save time, save money and get smarter.

Stuart Yasgur leads Ashoka's Social Financial Services globally. At Ashoka, Stuart works with others to initiate efforts that have mobilized more than $500 million in funding for social entrepreneurs, engaged the G20 through the Toronto, Seoul and Los Cabos summits and helped form partnerships with leading financial institutions and corporations.

Again, thank you to our incredible expert judges.

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