How to deal with pissed of customers…and the backlash that follows.

Whether you’re a small Mom & Pop shop or a Fortune 500 brand, you are going to make some one REALLY mad at some point. Even if you’re the sweetest, most perfect brand in the world (ha!) someone is going to get ticked off over something you say or do.

And they are going to tell people about it…a lot of people and on public forums (twitter, facebook, yelp, etc).

So, how do you deal with the bad press? How do you handle the complaints and backlash that come from an unhappy customer?

With my experience both dealing with the customers who have had (what they feel) is the short end of the stick…and being one of the customers who feels slighted by a brand, here’s my 5 steps for dealing with frustrated customers:

  1. Have a path for process. Knowing there will be issues is a great start – the better start is having a process in place to deal with these situations. This should include the escalation path for a problem, the names of people who can help with each type of issue and the structure for what you can/can’t offer as solutions.
  2. Acknowledge the situation. So often, brands just pretend the complaint isn’t there, or brush it off to customer service and hope it gets handled. This is the worst thing you can do when someone really feels hurt or slighted. You need to let them know that you understand they are mad/annoyed and that you want to help in any way you can. Note: want vs will is an important delineation. There is not always a way to help, but that doesn’t mean you don’t want to and won’t try…
  3. Take it offline. Not all problems should be handled online. In fact, after 2-3 messages, every problems should almost always be taken to an email or phone conversation. Once you have acknowledged the issue and gotten the person to respond to moving towards a solution, the solution process should be privately handled.
  4. Admit when you’re beat. Not every problem will be solved and in some cases, continuing to try without success can cause more damage. At some point, in some cases, you are best off admitting that you can’t solve it enough to make them happy and part ways on the conversation. This is, of course, the last option…but it a needed one.
  5. Record the conversation and the results. There is nothing worse than having a situation resolved and then having no record of how you go there. Successes and failures in resolution should be tracked and then analyzed so that you can improve on those that went poorly and discover what worked great on those that were resolved.

What situations have you had to deal with in regards to pissed off customers (or being one yourself)? I’d love to hear how a brand was successful (or not) at dealing with the situation:

  • James Dabbagian

    This reminds me of when I was looking at reviews for Dave Kerpen’s Likeable Social Media book on Amazon. There was one rating in particular that gave it really bad props, and Dave himself responded to the review with his apologies, offering to issue a full refund to the reviewer if he mailed the book to his office. By addressing the issue and offering a solution, he made a customer happy with a refund, and convinced many other people of his expertise.

    I guess the point I’m trying to make is that at the core, if a brand notices the problem, that alone will go far to improve relations with the customer.

    • Kirsten Wright

      Absolutely – it is all about response and knowing how to be honest and caring in a tough situation.

  • Think Box

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