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How ‘AIR’ Can Help You Put Out Your Social Media Fires

“Why does your product suck so bad? Have I mentioned I hate you?”, the tweet reads. Immediately, you go into red-alert mode, frantically leaping into action to handle the issue. You look at the history with the poster’s account, and can’t find anyone with that name, or any account with the company listed in their Twitter profile. It could be a tweet from a competitor. It could be a tweet from a disgruntled former customer. Or, it could be an actual customer with an actual problem. How you handle this type of interaction helps shape you to your audience and customers, so it’s imperative that you handle it correctly. I’m going to show you how ‘AIR’ can help you overcome these issues and turn them into positive experiences for all.

1. Assess The Issue

The first thing to do when you are targeted on social media by a tweet, a post you’re tagged in, or a direct message, is work out what the problem is. Are they simply complaining for complaining-sake? Are they bemoaning a feature or function you don’t have, or can’t do? Ask yourself: “is there something here I can fix, or is there a way I can help turn this issue into something positive?” Use empathy to put yourself in their shoes, and see if you can understand why they’re frustrated. If their reason isn’t something you can fix, or they’re just trolling you, let it go. Make note of the issue and account holder to pass on to any relevant departments. If there’s a way you can turn this experience into something positive for them, do due diligence.

A recent study showed that 35% of customers preferred using social media to handle service issues, compared to 16% who preferred calling into a brand’s 1-800 number.

2. Investigate The Problem

The second step – if you’ve identified that the issue is on your end – is to figure out the correct course of action to get the problem fixed. From there make sure to get all the relevant information from the customer having the problem. This can be done (and should be done) by taking the conversation offline, onto Facebook’s Messenger, Twitter’s Direct Messages, or even LinkedIn’s InMail. Make sure you get the customer’s name, company name or the account, the issue they’re having, and a phone number and email address for following up. You’ll need this info to pass on to your support team.

If it’s something you’re able to figure out, or in your research you’ve found a solution for the issue, share it with the customer. Check your own FAQs or Support sites to see if there’s something you can offer them.

3. Respond. Or Not.

The next thing you need to do is respond to the customer on the post they mentioned you in. There are a couple of rules of engagement that you should keep in mind. If the comments are coming from a customer or prospect, then the first step is to notify them that that your team is working on a solution or you are working to find out the answer to their problem or issue, and that you will update them when possible. Second, don’t over-promise, and don’t set unrealistic expectations. Third, even if they’re angry, your response should always caring, kind, and genuine.
If the comments are coming from a ‘troll’, or there is not a constructive value in responding or engaging, let it go. There’s no way you can win. If they are speaking about features, products, or services you don’t yet or can’t offer, respond to them thanking them for their feedback, and that you will pass it along to the appropriate team. (And then actually do that.)

Whatever response you give, make sure you keep the “corporate speak” to the minimum, responding as if they were sitting in front of you. People want to do business with people, especially when they’re not happy about something, and when you add the human element back in on social media as much as possible, it can make their responses and actions more understanding. I have noticed that when I respond to a message or tweet and add my name at the end, the interactions are more civil and the other party generally tones the anger down.

ALWAYS remember that whatever you respond with, or react with, can be screenshot and posted on the internet for all to see. Keep that in mind when you craft a response, share sensitive or future plans, etc.

Don’t forget to follow-up to make sure that the issue was resolved by the appropriate team, and that customer is satisfied with the results. This shows that you genuinely care about their issue, and are putting effort and energy into making sure they feel valued and important. I’ve found that it goes a long way. All companies and brands have issues in their products or services, it’s how they’re handled that shapes how you are perceived in the market. A great example of this is how UK supermarket Tesco handled this customer who had an issue with a cucumber he purchased. You can imagine that after this exchange, people viewed Tesco in a very positive light, even though it could have gone the other way very easily.

Lastly, always make sure you show (and tell) your customers that you value and appreciate them and their business, no matter what dollar amounts they add to the bottom line. If it caused a lot of inconvenience, send them something small to smooth things over. It can be anything from swag, to product, to a one-time discount. You want to go above and beyond with kindness, because every customer matters, especially on social media. That’s why learning how to handle social media fires is so important. Remember, “Assess the Issue”, “Investigate the problem”, and “Respond, or Don’t.” Businesses (and people) are absolutely judged everyday by how they respond to issues on social media, and by following this AIR protocol, you can start providing a better customer service experience.