How do you respond to difficult customers online?

If you ignore them, yell at them, or send them elsewhere for other people to deal with, then you’re probably missing out on some huge opportunities.

Social media can be a remarkable tool for building your online reputation and promoting your brand – but it’s crucial to get your interactions right if you want to make a good impression. No matter which social platform you use, you can turn your account into a solution for exceptional customer service, which will not only keep your customers happy and engaged, but will increase your chances for future sales too.

No matter how frustrating difficult clients can be, with the right social media response strategy, you could convert angry, raving customers into loyal fans.

Here’s how you can get started.

Step 1: Know How to Listen

Responding to negative feedback about your brand is an important part of managing your online reputation – however, if you don’t know who’s saying what, then you’re going to struggle to respond to those difficult customers who are littering the internet with poor reviews of your product or service.

As with all difficult customers, managing the situation starts with listening. In order to do this, you need to hone your social media efforts to ensure that you’re always alerted to negative whispers.

This can mean using several tools like:

Google Alerts – A free tool by Google, you can set up alerts for your brand name to inform you of when people are talking about you.
Mention – Mention enables you to monitor, in real time, any keywords and hashtags that people are using on social media. Stay up to date in the conversation in case anyone is talking about you.
Review sites – It can take some time, but keeping up to date with the reviews left on sites like Yelp can help to ensure that you don’t allow negative reviews to stagnate across the internet.
Forums – If you know the forums that your customers most commonly use, check in on them on a regular basis.
Though it’s difficult to stay on top of every comment made about your company, watching your social media accounts carefully and utilizing the right tools to assist, can give you the head start you need to tackle problems quickly and effectively.

Remember, the longer a negative review goes un-addressed, the more opportunity it has to damage your online reputation. Difficult customers can be like social media poison – and only you have the antidote.

For instance, when “Mike McCready” tweeted that he didn’t appreciate his hotel room view, the hotel, Delta, responded within an hour, offering a better room. When he arrived, he also got a handwritten card and some candies from the staff, turning a potentially damaging engagement into a positive story.

Step 2: Respond like a Human Being

When you started your business, chances are that you never thought you would have to practice acting like a human being online. However, as companies find themselves focusing more on marketing efforts and metrics than user experience and engagement, it’s easy to lose the human aspect of your voice.

The only thing worse than ignoring your difficult customers online is to respond to their concerns with a copy-and-paste corporate response. You need to be willing to show empathy, communicate in a friendly tone, and interact in a more intimate way – no matter how distressed or frustrated you feel.

Remember, it’s easy for customers to scream at anonymous brands, but when you throw a human element into the mix, then your difficult client realizes they’re not talking to some faceless company – they’re screaming at a real human being.

Try introducing yourself and issuing an apology as early as possible:

“Hi, this is Steve, I’m sorry to hear about your problem, and I’d like to help.”

This personal approach can help to diffuse some of the anger your customer is feeling, and let them know that someone is listening to their concerns.

Step 3: Respond Quickly

Though you might feel like it’s more effective to take your time and craft a carefully-thought-out response for those most difficult customers, the truth is that speed could be significantly more important.

Most consumers will expect their favorite brands to reply to their concerns on social media within a couple of days – difficult customers, on the other hand, generally expect a response within minutes (or hours at the very least).

If your brand posts content every day, then you have no excuse for ignoring the negative messages left on your page. If a customer leaves a complaint, then comes back to see you’ve shared news about your latest blog, but you haven’t addressed their concern, they’re probably going to feel angry, ignored, and unimportant.

Responding quickly shows your customer that they are the most important aspect of your business. Remember, without customers (even the difficult ones), your company wouldn’t be able to survive, so it’s crucial to convey just how valued your consumers are in everything you do – from marketing efforts to social media interaction.

Unfortunately, companies are notoriously bad at dealing with complaints in a timely fashion. If you can break the cycle and respond quickly, you may be able to distinguish yourself from other competitors in your industry, and keep difficult customers happy.

Even if you’re pressed for time, say something like:

“Hey, my name is Steve, and I hear your concerns. We are looking into this problem now, and I will get back to you with a solution as soon as I can. If you have additional questions, you can contact me directly at [number]”.

This message shows the customer that they have your attention, and additionally injects that human element, which we’ve already established is crucial for social media customer management.

Step 4: Respond Publicly

Most people try to avoid conflict wherever possible.

Just because your difficult customers are angry enough to call you out in public, that doesn’t mean that you’re going to feel comfortable dealing with the issue on such an exposed forum. However, although you might want to move the conversation offline or into private emails, it’s important to respond publicly.

When you move the conversation, you also take away the opportunity for others to see the effort you’ve put into fixing the issue – which could mean missing out on a great opportunity to build on your community engagement.

As noted above, though negative reviews and comments are upsetting, and can sometimes be damaging to a company, they also provide an opportunity to show just how much you value your customers.

If someone comes to your Facebook Page and sees a negative review with no responses, they may go elsewhere – however, if they see a negative review that’s been quickly and effectively dealt with by the customer service team, they know that they’ll be able to trust you to act appropriately if they too have any concerns.

Step 5: Make it Right

Just say you’re sorry.

It’s not enough to acknowledge your difficult customers online, you need to make sure that you address their concern and fix the issue.

Sometimes, you can accomplish this with n a simple apology, but if you can offer a refund, or deal with the issue on a deeper level, then you should be able to win over the critics in no time.

The truth is that all businesses make mistakes, and all businesses deal with difficult customers. It’s how you address the concerns of those customers that people will remember when researching your company.

You can’t just expect other people to see that a client is difficult and shrug off a negative review – you have to be willing to show that you’ll go the extra mile to keep your customers happy, no matter how unfair they’re being.

Dealing with Difficult Customers through Social Media

When engaging online, people can get angrier about an issue than they would in a face-to-face interaction, but dealing with that anger can help you to develop your long-term reputation as a responsive brand. By using the above tips for using social media to deal with difficult customers, your business can set itself apart as a hub of incredible customer service and value.


Act like a human being (but don’t get too emotional)
Respond quickly, and publicly
Find a way to fix the issue

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