Five Rules to Getting Good Customer Service on Social Media

Social media has made customer service more important and easier since the advent of the 800 number.

We tell people, and our companies, what makes us happy and what makes us upset. We tell others they need to support or avoid companies that have pleased or displeased us. And if we’re lucky, the companies will pay attention to us, and solve our problems for us.Shouting woman

But depending on what you complain about and how you do it, you may have better success with some techniques than others. Here are five rules for getting good customer service on social media.

1. Don’t Be Passive-Aggressive

Social media has made it possible for the passive-aggressive among us to air our grievances to all of our friends without actually confronting any issues. You see them on Facebook, Twitter, and other anywhere else we can share our innermost thoughts and accomplishments with our friends:

Claire: I wish some people would quit leaving the toilet seat up.
David: Jeez, I said I was sorry.
Gayle likes this.
Gayle: Good for you, Claire. Make whoever it is PAY!”
David: You know, I can see you both across the table.

Customers who complain about a company need to be specific, factual, and shouldn’t play the hapless victim seeking sympathy. If you don’t like something, say so outright. Also, sticking the #fail hashtag on a complaint tweet just makes you look like a petty drama queen.

Wish someone at @burgerking hadn’t only put one piece of cheese on my Double Whopper. Learn to count. #fail #MyDayIsRuined

2. Don’t Be a Jackass

The funniest thing I heard Scott Stratten say at his Social Media Club Chicago talk was, “I’m not the jackass whisperer. I don’t have time to deal with jackasses.” If you’re a jackass to the company you’re dissatisfied with, don’t be surprised if they don’t help you. Calling someone names or insulting them because you’re not happy will only make them mad, and wreck what might have been a valid complaint. If they do help, it’s because they’re committed to customer service, not because your jackassery is actually effective.

3. Don’t Say Anything You’re Not Willing to Say to Someone’s Face

If you’re a jackass online, how willing are you to be a jackass to someone’s face, especially when they’re not the person who aggrieved you? And if you’re the passive-aggressive type, are you willing to make a cutting comment at the same time you make eye contact with someone?

What makes me laugh is to see is when someone complains about a company on Twitter, and the company responds, the person quickly backtracks and tries to soften what they previously said. It’s an understandable vent. They’re upset, they’re frustrated, and so they reached for their mobile phone, and told the world why, but didn’t realize the company was paying attention to them. When the company responds, they backpedal on their complaint, embarrassed at their outburst, and more than a little humbled. And yes, I’ve done this. It’s embarrassing.

Many years ago, when I was in grad school, I was on the receiving end of this. I had stepped onto an elevator and hit the button for my floor. The doors closed just as a woman ran up. I couldn’t hit the Open Door button in time to keep them from closing all the way.

“A-hole!” she shouted as the doors shut in her face. (She didn’t actually say “a-hole,” she said the whole word.)

However, it turns out I did hit the button in time so the elevator didn’t leave. The doors slid open again, bringing her face to face with the guy she had just called a name.

“Oh jeez, I’m so sorry,” she stammered. “I was just annoyed about the doors.”

“Don’t worry about it. I won’t make you ride with an a-hole,” I said, and hit the Close Door button.

Here’s the rule. Don’t shout something on Twitter or Facebook that you have to stammer an apology for when you meet that person.

4. Send Out Thank You Messages After Your Complaint Is Resolved

After you’ve been helped, write a blog post, or post a video or some photos about you being happy with your new or replacement item. Turn the company’s effort into a win for them. Give them something to be happy about. Customer service people spend 8 hours a day being our whipping posts, so show them — as publicly as possible — that you’re thankful.

There’s an old management adage that says “reprimand in private, praise in public.” That works here too. If you have a customer service gripe, it’s nice to keep it private. Just between you and the company. But definitely make your praises public. Let everyone know why you’re pleased.

If you do launch a complaint in public, it is absolutely not right to only thank them with a personal email. You made sure everyone knows about the company’s failure, so you need to make sure everyone knows about their success too.

5. Praise a Company Before You Have a Need to Complain

There are some companies that just rock your world. You love their products, you “like” their Facebook page, and you tell all your friends about them. Become a super fan and praise them on your blog, Twitter, and Facebook. Become their evangelist before you ever lodge your first complaint.

If they’re on social media, connect with them there too. Become someone who will help them out when they need it. Then, when you have a complaint, not only do you have one or two people you can complain to directly, they’ll take you seriously, because they know how much you already love them.

As clichéd as it is, the old saying, “you catch more flies with honey than you can with vinegar” applies here. If you’re unhappy with a company, by all means, complain. It’s your right as a customer. But if you do it the right way, you’re more likely to get what you want than if you whine and gripe about their incompetence and #failures.

My book, Branding Yourself: How to Use Social Media to Invent or Reinvent Yourself (affiliate link), is available on Amazon.com, as well as at Barnes & Noble and Borders bookstores. I wrote it with my good friend, Kyle Lacy.

Photo credit: kandyjaxx

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    About Erik Deckers

    is the President of Professional Blog Service, a ghost blogging and social media marketing agency in Indianapolis, IN. He has been blogging since 1997, and has been a published writer for more than 26 years. He is a newspaper humor columnist, appearing in 10 papers around Indiana, and in The American Reporter. Erik co-authored No Bullshit Social Media with Jason Falls (2011, Que Biz-Tech), and Branding Yourself with Kyle Lacy (2nd ed., 2012; Que Biz-Tech). His latest co-authored effort, The Owned Media Doctrine, was released in 2013.

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