The Right (and Wrong) Way to Respond to Customer Complaints on Facebook

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Starbucks India just learned a hard lesson in social media. After Armaan Kapur was treated poorly at an establishment in Delhi, he wrote on Starbucks India’s Facebook wall to air his complaints. The post quickly took off, receiving thousands of likes and hundreds of comments. Shortly after the post began to go viral, however, it mysteriously disappeared from Starbucks India’s Timeline.

Although Starbucks India maintains that the team didn’t delete the post, and then invited Kapur back to the establishment to apologize and extend an olive branch in the form of free coffee, Kapur maintains that the company’s social media team did delete his post, souring the Starbucks brand for many customers.

The story itself is a lesson in how not to handle customer complaints on your brand’s social media accounts. Because of a series of missteps, Starbucks India turned a complaint into a controversy, giving it far more attention than it would have received had it been handled correctly from the start. Should you find yourself in a similar unfortunate situation, these are the three steps you should take.

1. Do NOT delete the post in question (even if it gets out of hand).

It didn’t take long for Kapur’s post to go viral, and it was probably pretty overwhelming for the social media team to see constant notifications of new ‘likes’ and comments on that very post. Although some of those responses probably got out of control, there was no reason for the post to, ahem, disappear. If/when a complaint appears on your brand’s Facebook Timeline, do not delete it. It will only make you look bad, especially if word starts to spread.

2. Address the complaint within the post’s thread.

As soon as you notice a complaint on your Facebook Timeline, meet with the rest of your social/PR/customer service team to craft the perfect response. Your response will likely vary depending on the situation, but most instances will end with your brand issuing an apology and making amends with a discount or free product of some sort. Once you’ve decided on a course of action, respond to the disgruntled customer by commenting on their post (this will ensure that they see it) and then invite them to contact you directly to give them their coupons, letter of apology, etc.

3. If necessary, dedicate an entire post to addressing the situation (and make sure it’s seen).

If you’ve noticed that the post has gotten lots of attention, it might be worth it to create a separate post/status addressing the complaint and how your brand is resolving it. You might want to ‘pin’ it or ‘highlight’ it to give it extra visibility and answer any questions new visitors might have about the situation. This will ensure that the post is actually seen, especially since your previous in-thread response will probably get buried by new comments.

Social gaffes happen and complaints happen, it’s the nature of social media. Get a plan in place ahead of time to handle each of these problems by checking out our guide to handling a social media gaffe and setting up a Facebook customer service workflow.