We’ve all seen it before- even if it’s not your fault, someone is screaming mad at you and wants blood. My grandfather used to say ‘only an idiot argues with an idiot’ (which is true) but if this angry person happens to be a customer, then all bets are off and you have to find some way to deal with them that doesn’t involve weapons of mass destruction. And no, that doesn’t change just because you’re working in social media- you still have to sometimes face rabid customers.
So what do you do? Proverbs 15:1 has a good answer to this question (even if you’re secular): ‘a gentle answer deflects anger.’ What this means is that the best way to de-escalate a situation with someone who’s furious is to react in a calm fashion. I know- that’s not always easy to do, especially if they’re swearing at you or making unkind comments about your mom (who doesn’t deserve that at all). But believe this- it’s the right thing to do.
Here’s why you should react with a cool head when anger comes at you from a customer:
- ARGUING MORE WILL ONLY ESCALATE THINGS. Think of this as a riff off of what my grandfather said. If you start yelling back or responding online with the same angry tone, it’s just going to go on and on, without any resolution. Worst of all, you’ll look bad for doing that.
- YOU ACTUALLY HAVE THE CHANCE TO TURN THINGS AROUND INTO A POSITIVE SITUATION. Just by reacting in a calm fashion and trying to be helpful, a lot of times, you can tone down the whole situation. You’d be surprised how often it does- I know this from personal experience as being on the sending and receiving end of an angry interaction.
- AS A BONUS, YOU LOOK GOOD TO OTHERS WHO SEE THIS HAPPENING. If this is happening in a public forum, it makes you look good to react calmly- people see that you not only care about a customer’s problems but you can deal with them in a rational, helpful way, even when they’re spitting mad at you. They’ll admire you and your company for that.
With all of that in mind though, you should also realize a few things about these unhappy confrontations that come up sometimes:
- AS NICE AS YOU ARE, YOU CAN’T SATISFY EVERYONE. The customer from hell is the one who you can never do right by. You can try as hard as you can, but you can’t satify them. Don’t beat yourself up over this if you put effort into helping them and they’re still not happy. Move on and try to help the next person.
- YOU DON’T HAVE TO RESPOND TO EVERYTHING. Don’t make it a habit to ignore negative online comments (or offline for that matter) but some are so nasty that they’re not worth responding to. Or maybe you’ve responding to the same issue very recently so there may not be a need to keep repeating the same answer.
Here, I’d recommend two ways to take preventive measures to try to nip the problem of nasty commenters in the bud:
- PREPARE YOURSELF FOR COMPLAINTS THAT KEEP COMING UP. Have your own FAQ of known issues or problems that you can easily refer customers to. That’s a good way to save some time.
- POST GUIDELINES ABOUT ACCEPTABLE USER COMMENTS. It’s fine for users to criticize you if a problem comes up, but when they they start swearing, getting abusive and/or adding in other really objectionable language (i.e. racist, sexist), not only should you forgot about responding to them but you don’t even have to let their comments stay on your particular social media platform- it belongs to you so why should you let abusive people make it a forum for their hateful speech and drive other users away? Facebook is especially equipped for this as many sites they have their own posted guidelines that cover this (I’d recommend putting this in the ABOUT section of your page). You can see examples of these kind of guidelines here, here, here and here.
- MOST OF ALL, BE FLEXIBLE. There are thousands of situations that come up about angry customers that there aren’t any cut and dry rules for. In these kind of cases, have a pow-wow with your colleagues in your social media team and/or marketing to figure out the best way to deal with these issues and come up with ideas for new situations as they come up.
Tune in next time as we’ll talk about what your competition is doing right now in social media and what you can learn from that.
Hope this is helpful to you. As always, please share your comments and thoughts about this!