How to Handle the Angry Online Customer

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angry woman screaming at smart phoneWhen you open your business to customers, as a storefront or in the digital world on social media, you take a risk: the risk of angry customers. How do you respond?

You’ll find one key advantage to social media: time.  Though you should respond to angry customers promptly, you do have a few minutes to craft a response appropriate for the situation. Just take a deep breath, and use these tips:

  • Take another deep breath. Read through the customer’s complaint completely, and try to understand where they’re coming from.  What is their #1 complaint?
  • Be prompt. Customers expect businesses to respond with online customer service within an hour. Don’t delay and add fuel to the fire.
  • Don’t get defensive. Your business is your baby, and you’ve poured your blood, sweat and tears into it.  Don’t take their complaint personally. Look at it as feedback that needs to be addressed—and address it as such.
  • Admit your mistakes. If your employee was late or rude, apologize. Your customers appreciate it more if you are honest and transparent. Try to sandwich the negativity with “Thank you so much for your feedback. We apologize for the delay by our technician. We will use your feedback to make sure that this error does not happen again.”
  • You don’t have to give them a discount, but it helps. This is a fine line, dependant on the discount you give. Be consistent with your discounts.  If the problem is a shipping issue, offer them free shipping on their next order or offer to refund their shipping costs. If the product was broken, offer to ship them a new product for free. Don’t give them a half-hearted offer, like 25% on selected products or 10% off when they spend $150, so it sounds like you’re not trying. However, you don’t have to give each customer a brand new product—and you don’t have to let everyone know what you are offering. You can respond with “Thank you so much for letting us know about your issue. Please watch your ‘Other’ message folder for a message resolving your issue.”
  • Run your response by someone else. Everyone reads things differently. After you’ve crafted a short response, have an outside party read it and give feedback.  Make sure you use a professional tone, and don’t come off as haughty or defensive.
  • Review it one more time. Before you hit ‘send’ or ‘post,’ read through your response one more time. Make sure that if a million people read your response that it would reflect favorably on your business, even if you are admitting a mistake.
  • Say thank you even when you don’t mean it. Be polite even if your blood is boiling. Even if you are addressing a customer with what you see as a unique situation, your response will be seen by other customers—and potential customers.

Once you’ve responded, resolve the customers’ issue and move on. If the problem could happen again, change your business’ procedures or processes. Remember, once the encounter is done, it’s done. You have other customers to please and other products to sell. Move on into the positive side of social media, and take full advantage of this marketing tool.

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