Handling Customer Complaints Via Social Media

Yesterday was Valentine’s Day, the day every man in America dreads. Two days before the 14th, you can see them scrambling to the jewelry store, the day spa and maybe even calling 1-800-Flowers. We used to call it the deer in the headlights syndrome. What happens when you have a flurry of customer complaints on social media like 1-800-Flowers did on Valentine’s Day.

JanetPhoto from Buzzfeed

How do you, as a company and social media manager, make things right? Here are a few best practices:

1. Make sure you have a protocol for handling complaints. This should detail exactly how to respond and include how to rectify any situation that may come up.

2. Respond as soon as possible! The longer that you wait to respond the more difficult the situation can become.

3. Be sincere and genuine. This is your chance to show current customers and prospects that you really care. You do not want your response to look like a robot is replying to complaints, instead of a human being.

4. Apologize! Companies who do not apologize when they make a mistake lose the respect of their customers. It is human to make a mistake; it is even more human to apologize.

5. Offer to correct the situation. In a situation like 1-800-Flowers had on Valentine’s Day the only real way to correct the situation is to issue a full refund and send out replacement flowers. Yes, sometimes it hurts the bottom line when you make mistakes, but it will hurt the bottom line in a more permanent way if you do not do the right thing.

6. Do not delete a complaint thread or hide it from your Facebook wall or Twitter feed, and for goodness sakes do not shut down Facebook comments! Keep the thread open and show how you carefully and competently deal with an angry or upset customer. Show the world you can take your lumps and turn lemons into lemonade! People respect those companies who deal with customers openly and honestly.

7. Keep the conversation civil, no matter how angry a customer gets, no matter what they say or how they say it. Keep it civil and do not lose patience. It is not personal, and in many cases the customer just wants know that someone is actively listening to them.

How do you deal with customer issues online? We would love to know!


  1. Very useful post :) it’s hard to resist the temptation to jump into Twitter with a refutal or just delete the tweet. It’s better to take a deep breath and deal with the problem when you calm down.

    • You got it Antonio! Take a minute, breathe, and handle the complaint professionally. Sometimes you will not make the person happy no matter what you do or offer, but if you sincerely tried, others will take notice.

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  3. Poor Janet! My only comment about her Tweets is that they all say the same thing. Like an auto-responder. Yikes! I agree with all of your points. Luckily, I don’t get too many complaints in the public stream (or elsewhere :)) but if I did, I would face them head on. Everyone is fallible and I believe it shows a very human side to a brand/company when things go wrong and the conversation is aired in public – as long as it does not become abusive or demeaning. That belongs offline.
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