October 24, 2013

Imma let you finish: How not to respond to complaints online

Don't be known for having a short temper and being unprofessional.

Don’t be known for having a short temper and being unprofessional.

The Internet has made it easy to complain about anything at the drop of a hat. Whether or not the complaints are justified, it’s important to know how to handle them without offending the complainer or the rest of your customer base. So here’s what not to do:

1. Make the person feel like an idiot.

I recently participated in a company’s event that was very poorly run. After hearing several complaints, a friend of mine sent the organizer an email relaying the group’s frustration. The organizer responded by posting the message on the company’s Facebook page and picking it apart line by line. He essentially tore my friend a new one. What a great way to alienate a paying customer and anyone with similar opinions.

2. Ignore them and hope they go away.

Seeing negative tweets can become exhausting. But ignoring them isn’t going to make them go away. I recently stayed at a hotel, and to say the room was disgusting is an understatement. I knew the hotel was fully booked, so calling to change rooms wasn’t an option. Instead, I tweeted them, expecting some type of response. Nothing. My stay went from bad to worse and I tweeted them again. Still no response. Less than a week later, both tweets were deleted from their page. This made me even more irate. Not only are my Twitter followers aware of how disgusting this hotel is, I’ve since shared my dissatisfaction on Facebook and with family, friends and coworkers. Had they simply responded to my tweet with a solution, the issue could have gone away. Now I refuse to stay at that hotel chain and have managed to scare others away as well.

3. Engage in a good old-fashioned pissing match.

Celebrities are known for going at it over Twitter. One celebrity says something nasty about another celebrity. The offended celebrity responds in kind. And thus the Twitter War begins.

Observing these feuds can be quite entertaining. Like Kanye West’s recent Twitter battle with Jimmy Kimmel. Probably 99% of what Kanye said was unwarranted, but it was hilarious and I loved every minute. Kanye can get away with this because he’s an entertainer and it’s basically his brand — he’s expected to have a short fuse and people follow him because of his all-caps Twitter rants.

But unless you want your organization to be known for having a short temper and being unprofessional, this is probably best left to the Yeezies of the world.

So what should you do?

Take the conversation offline. Reach out to the person, the same way he or she reached out to you. Present yourself as an individual representing the company and show genuine concern. Offer the person the chance to contact you directly so you can learn more about the problem and determine how best it can be remedied.

Do not take an offline issue and make it public. If someone sends you a private message, don’t post it for the world to see. And certainly don’t make that person out to be a jerk because you feel offended. If one person feels this way, it’s likely others do as well.

Whether or not the complaint is warranted, remain professional and work with the person to find a solution. The last thing you want is to become a case study in how not to handle a situation.