Social media is a really useful channel for assessing customer service. People can reach out to your business with just a click of a mouse, and give instant feedback about their experience of using your products and services. But what can you do if that feedback is rude or offensive?
My first office job was as a customer service executive, dealing with customer queries on social media. Many of our social media followers were perfectly civil, and happy to like and share their favorite photos and articles. But it wasn't long before I saw the ugly side of customer feedback.
Social media sites can be a great place to voice opinions, but some people use them to rant (occasionally quite aggressively) about their grievances, and it can be very unpleasant for the person on the receiving end.
Chances are, we've all had a negative experience with a product or brand at some point, and it's natural to want to voice our dissatisfaction. The problem with doing so on social media is that it gives the user a certain degree of anonymity; people are protected by their profile and can unleash their rage at an organization from the safety of a keyboard – either unaware or not caring that there's a real person at the other end, trying their best to sort out their issue.
But there are a number of strategies and techniques that you can use to defuse a customer's anger and deal with their rudeness. Here are a few tips and ideas that I've learnt along the way:
On first contact with a rude customer, your initial reaction might be to ignore him or her. But that will only fuel his anger, so it's important to deal with the problem promptly. Send the customer a simple message acknowledging his complaint. Even if his grievance will take time to resolve, just knowing that he's been heard may calm him down.
If you deal with complaints regularly, it can desensitize you to how your customer is feeling. Try putting yourself in your customer's shoes – how would you feel if you thought you had experienced poor service or bought a faulty product. Even if a customer is being rude, it's likely she's just frustrated. Behind each online profile is an individual, so keep your responses civil and professional.
Protect Your Public Image
Remember, your responses to an online complaint will likely be in the public domain. For example, if you are replying to a customer's comment on your Twitter feed, it can be read by the followers of both parties. In my previous job, there were a few occasions when our social media followers would see complaints from other users and join the discussion themselves. This was tricky to handle, especially when the other customer added their own complaints.
If a public online discussion starts to get heated, or a customer gets abusive, or you need to discuss sensitive information, take the conversation to private messaging or arrange to communicate offline.
No matter how much you want to keep a customer happy and help him to resolve his problems, there could come a time when you can't reach an agreement, or his language or behavior becomes unacceptable.
If that happens, let him know that such behavior will not be tolerated. If the abuse continues, you may have to consider blocking him from your social media channels. Draw up some social media guidelines and keep this consistent for all of your users.
For more tips on dealing with rude customers, see our article, here.
Do you have any experience with rude customers on social media? Tell us your experiences, below.
Natalie Benfell is Mind Tools' Social Media Executive.