10 Ways to Handle Unhappy Customers on Social Media

The ways consumers interact with businesses online are fast evolving, and so is our expectation of customer service. Especially now when more and more unhappy customers are turning towards social media for a solution.

We live in a world of instant gratification, and customer service through social media can give consumers fast response to satisfy that need.

As a result, more and more customers and businesses are moving their interactions to the virtual world of social media.

1.Ravi Shukle Social Media customer service infographic 10 Ways to Handle Unhappy Customers on Social Media

More and more people are using social media for customer service, and they’re expecting speedy response

Moreover, providing customer service through social media helps improve user experience:

  • Your unhappy customers don’t have to hunt around your website for a phone number to call, and worry about being put on perpetual hold or transferred 5 times to different departments while elevator music fries their brains.
  • Your unhappy customers don’t have to send an email or submit a contact form, which can be impersonal and a reply could take days. Not to mention correspondence can get lost in an inbox with 200 unread messages or get stuck in the spam folder.

When your customers can get timely and responsive support from your brand, the positive experience can translate into increased loyalty and higher conversion.

2. When companies respond on social media for customer service - 10 Ways to Handle Unhappy Customers on Social Media

Timely response on social media can lead to higher conversion rate and up to 40% increase in spending from customers.

To get the most out of providing customer service through social media, you need to understand why it makes consumers tick and make sure you leverage these advantages:

  1. Immediate response – when you have an unhappy customer or they encounter an issue, they want immediate assistance instead of waiting some 24 – 48 hours for an email that may nor may not solve the problem.The almost instant response consumers get via customer service on social media can be particularly effective if your line of business tend to deal with urgent problems, such as flight delay or a technological malfunction before a presentation.Of course, this go both ways – if your customer service team is not structured to respond in a timely manner as expected, it may cost you (and it’s on social media for the world to see) so before you commit to providing customer service through social media, make sure you have the structure in place to meet customer expectations.
    3. Social media customer service response times - 10 Ways to Handle Unhappy Customers on Social MediaSocial media users expect quick turnaround time on their customer service related posts or tweets.
  2. A personal brand experience – consumers like to deal with human beings, rather than faceless corporations. Managing your customer service through social media gives you the best of both worlds. People immediately recognize and call out to your brand, and it’ll be a person reaching out in response.
    If you can train your customer service reps to retain your brand voice while responding with a causal and conversational tone, you can turn an interaction into a great opportunity to humanize your brand.
  3. A streamlined experience – there’s no hoops to jump through on social media. There’s no system-generated email, or any tone-based phone menu. You tweet out a question, you get an answer.Consumers like to get response via the same medium they initiated the contact instead of being funneled through a series of hoops (e.g. phone, email, snail mail). If they reach out via social media, respond via the same platform to eliminate the funnel and create an optimal user experience.
  4. Transparent conversation – unhappy customers want to be heard. Social media is the perfect way for them to voice their opinions and know that they will be responded.This transparency also means your current and potential customers will see how you handle the situation. If you answer a customer’s concern quickly and effectively, you’ll make all your customers feel confident about your excellent customer service and are more likely to purchase from you.
  5. More brand mentions – when you take customer service onto social media, you have more opportunities to point back to your brand through customers’ mentions. When they mention you on their post, their friends and followers will also see it. This means increased brand visibility, and if you handle the interaction well, you’ll build trust and reputation with a larger audience.
  6. Better SEO ranking – when appropriate, you can share a link to your website to provide further information to a query. The increased question, comments, activities, mentions and backlinks can boost your SEO ranking and generate more organic traffic.
  7. Easy follow up – checking back to make sure unhappy customers get the help they need to resolve an issue is a great way to build trust and relationship that can increase a customer’s lifetime value. For a quick and simple inquiry, you can ask immediately if the interaction is helpful. If it’s more complicated, you can check in a few days later to make sure you have a happy customer. Only when a customer is satisfied with your products or services would they keep coming back.
  8. Social sharing – people who use social media to get customer service are more likely to be active on social media (duh!) and they like to share their experiences with brands they love. If they get positive experience with your brand, it’s more likely that they will share it with their friends and followers.
  9. Bridging online and offline experiences – customer service via social media gives brick-and-mortar businesses an opportunity to move fluidly between online and offline media, allowing them to go beyond servicing customers in-store. This increases the level of interaction, and ultimately customer loyalty.

In the rest of this article, we’ll look at 10 ways you can put these advantages of providing customer service through social media into practice so you can turn unhappy customers into loyal fans who would purchase from you again and again:

#1 Empathize with their pains

Hiccups happen. Instead of taking a unhappy customer’s complaint personally or being defensive, put yourself in the customer’s shoes.

In this exchange on Twitter between JetBlue and a customer stuck with a non-functioning TV during a 4-hour flight, JetBlue responded to the customer’s complaint by taking his side and empathizing with his experience.

The result? A happy customer who is likely to purchase again and positive word-of-mouth:

4. Creating social media customer service on Twitter - 10 Ways to Handle Unhappy Customers on Social Media

JetBlue turned a complaint into a satisfactory customer experience via Twitter.

#2 Pay attention, listen and go the extra mile

Mike McCready tweeted about his room with an ugly view at the Delta Vancouver Suites without tagging Delta Hotels.

Within an hour, Delta Hotels responded on Twitter and later in the day, the hotel staff left a plate of pastry and a note in his room:

5. social listening as a key to customer service on social media - 10 Ways to Handle Unhappy Customers on Social Media

Delta Hotels used social listening to surprise and delight a customer – an example of seamlessly bridging online and offline customer experience.

As you can imagine, Mike was delighted by the experience – so much so that he wrote a blog post about it.

By paying attention to relevant conversations on social media, Delta Hotels turned an unhappy customer experience into one that earned them loyalty and positive word-of-mouth that no doubt will get them more customers in the long run.

Customers may talk about their experiences associated with your products or services on social media without tagging you if they’re not expecting anything to be fixed.

These are typically situations that are “not a big deal,” but if you go the extra mile and delight the customers, you can turn a one-time purchase into a loyal customer.

That’s when social listening strategy comes in, so you can keep tab on what’s happening under your nose and be able to respond in a timely manner to knock your customers’ experiences out of the ballpark.

6. Social listening to provide social media customer service - 10 Ways to Handle Unhappy Customers on Social Media

What is social listening?

#3 Respond in a Timely Manner

Rescuing a customer from a locked bookstore may be an extreme case, but paying close attention to your social mentions can help you provide timely response to customer concerns.

This will not only avoid negative word-of-mouth but also demonstrate your high standard of customer care when your interactions are seen on social media by your followers.

7. Response time when carrying out social media customer service - 10 Ways to Handle Unhappy Customers on Social Media

The tweet from Waterstones bookstore on freeing their trapped customer received many likes and retweets.

#4 Show your commitment to customer service

If you’ve a sizable amount of customer service interactions, it may pay off to set up a dedicated Twitter account for that purpose.

This way you can assign customer service team members to monitor the account and respond quickly. It also shows your commitment to providing excellent customer service.

8. dedicated social media support to provide social media customer service - 10 Ways to Handle Unhappy Customers on Social Media

Xbox has a dedicated Twitter account to provide customer service.

#5 Follow up

Imagine the increased satisfaction and therefore loyalty to your brand if your customer gets a tweet from you a few days after resolving an issue to make sure everything is okay.

This interaction takes the conversation from putting out a fire to building long-term relationship, increasing customer loyalty and ultimately lifetime value.

9. Follow up to provide social media customer service

In this Twitter thread, Xbox support followed up with the customer 9 days after the initial interaction to make sure everything was working ok.

#6 Be courteous to a fault… even if it’s not your fault

Sometimes unhappy customers get confused and they may be yelling at you for reasons that aren’t under your control nor are they your fault.

Be accommodating, ask helpful questions and make your customers feel cared for. More often than not, they’d find what they need on their own or come to the realization that it’s not a problem at your end yet they’d appreciate your patience nonetheless.

No matter what, keep your Zen – stay positive and supportive

#7 Acknowledge every customer comment

Not all unhappy customers who leave a comment need a “fix” but they do need to be acknowledged.

Customers want to be heard. When they tag you on social media and don’t receive a response, this can cause a rift in your relationship that can slowly but surely chip away loyalty and reduce conversion.

In this example, a customer told Seamless (a food delivery app) that he got white rice instead of brown rice.

Not a deal breaker and the customer wasn’t unhappy. However, Seamless responded and looked into the issue, showing their commitment to providing excellent customer care.

10.Acknowledge customers to provide social media customer service - 10 Ways to Handle Unhappy Customers on Social Media

By acknowledging a “no big deal” tweet from Nick, Seamless gained a loyal customer. Nothice the “.” before “@seamless” – that means the tweet went out to all of his followers

#8 Add humor and personality, when appropriate

Humor and personality, when injected appropriately, can lighten up a situation and make the interaction more personal.

Instead of creating a “you vs. them” situation, make your customer feel they’re interacting with a real person (not a faceless brand). This helps deflect anger and emotions.

Give your customer service team some leeway instead of having them cut-and-paste from a script. People can tell when they’re getting canned responses, and this dehumanizes the interaction.

11. personalise your experience to provide social media customer service - 10 Ways to Handle Unhappy Customers on Social Media

This interaction between Sainsbury (UK grocery chain) and a customer is personal and humorous. How can you get angry at that??!

#9 Don’t leave unhappy customers hanging

Social media interaction is fast pace, which means customers tend to expect quick response to their posts and tweets. If you ask an already unhappy customer to wait hours for a reply, you’re not winning any hearts, nor conversion.

Don’t keep your customer on the other side of the globe hanging while your side of the world goes to sleep.

If you have a small team concentrated in one time zone, be sure to make clear what the customer service hours are on social media, and what people can expect.

12. Dont ignore customers when responding on social media for customer service - 10 Ways to Handle Unhappy Customers on Social Media


Clearly state customer support hours to set expectation.

If you intend to provide round-the-clock support, you’d want to hire team members from different parts of the world so there will be someone on the line at all times.

Also take into account major holidays to make sure even if you’re taking a day off, customers from other countries that don’t observe those days off can get the support they need.

#10 Be personal, friendly and treat each customer with respect

Customer service on social media is very much a one-on-one experience. By making it personal, you can turn an unhappy customers situation into an opportunity to build a better relationship.

Use a friendly tone. Addressing your customer by their first name and having your team members sign off with their first name can help make the interaction more personal.

13. Be friendly when carrying out social media customer service - 10 Ways to Handle Unhappy Customers on Social Media

Example of friendly and personal customer service interaction on Twitter.

At the end of the day, customer service is about listening and personal interaction.

Make sure you provide timely response, don’t make your customers jump through hoops, surprise and delight, go the extra mile, follow up and most important of all, show that you care.
[divider style=”7″]

Over to you – have you been using social media for customer service? What works, and what doesn’t? Share your insights and experience in the comment area below!

Ravi Shukle - online customer service specialist


P.S If you want me to help you kick start this whole process. Feel free to – Get in touch today!