Handling social media complaints is scary for some because managing a Twitter or Facebook account doesn’t necessarily mean you have any customer service experience. By putting your business out there on social media you are opening yourself up to both positive and negative feedback. What’s important to think about is how you handle a complaint when it arises.
Asda apologises for offensive Halloween costume
Asda recently withdrew a Halloween ‘mental patient fancy dress costume’ after complaints that they were stigmatising people with mental health issues. Tesco also had a ‘psycho ward’ outfit which they withdrew. Amazon were stocking an outfit, but Asda took the brunt of the publics complaint and tweeted the following apology. (If you want to follow the thread of Asda’s apology and the many replies, click here)
The apology seems sincere, was posted without delay and they put their hands up admitting they were wrong. They followed the tweet the same day with two more:
They donated £25,000 to Mind Charity and Tesco followed suit.
Thorpe Park’s lacklustre apology for offensive park attraction
The other recent issue is one involving Thorpe Park who have an ‘Asylum’ maze which includes an actor playing a mental patient chasing guests out of the maze with a chainsaw. This has not received (as of yet) anywhere near the coverage or level of complaint that the Asda fancy dress costume has caused, but is perpetuating the same stigma. And from what I can see is just as bad, if not worse.
I’m not here to discuss the ethics of either Thorpe Park or Asda (although they are clearly in the wrong in my opinion!) but I’m interested here in the companies online responses to the complaints. Asda appeared to have instantly recognised that this was wrong, they withdrew the costume instantly, publicly apologised and admitted that it was unacceptable. Thorpe Park however, have responded with this:
Cassian Lotte Lodge’s blog post shows the original complaint letter and the response received. What Thorpe Park seem to think is that it’s OK to keep the Asylum attraction because its been there for eight years and has never been complained about enough to warrant change. It’s sad that they don’t realise that times change and along with that, so do their responsiblities.
However, back to Thorpe Park’s community manager position… “We’re sorry for any offence caused”. It really is very copy and paste, standard, not particularly sincere. It’s not easy to get tone and sentiment across in 140 characters but Asda managed it in my opinion.
A friend of mine had a great response from The Royal Mail Twitter account when he tweeted about a parcel that hadn’t arrived on time. The Royal Mail account seems not to be controlled by a mere community manager with the Twitter logins (like many others I’ve dealt with) but someone who actually had some power to do something and solve problems. If you use your Twitter account for customer service it’s great if it is connected to the other departments of your business so that complaints can be resolved as well as listened to.
How should YOU respond if your business gets a complaint?
First of all don’t panic.
To respond or not to respond, that is the question…
Is it valid or malicious? Have a good look at the issue at hand. Do you think the complainant is in the right? If someone has a complaint, they are unlikely to be the only one. Remember not everyone is on Twitter voicing their opinion directly to you! If it’s malicious or abusive feedback, I say ignore it. No point getting caught up in an online dialogue where someone is after an argument rather than a resolution. It could be more damaging to your business to continue the thread. However, in the majority of cases, I advise responding.
Ignoring a complaint on social media is kind of saying, “Look we’re online trying to engage and sell our product/service but we only want to hear from you if it’s good!” You’ve got to take the good with the bad. Responding to complaints mean that you can improve your business and maintain credibility with your customers. You just need to ensure you do it genuinely – people respect honesty.
I don’t know what to say!
What will correct the mistake? Think about what is the right thing to do. What steps will you take offline to deal with the issue? Perhaps some staff training, changing or adapting a product or service, replacing an item or providing a refund. Whatever will make things right, communicate this to the customer. And do it honestly, personally and ensuring your have stakeholder buy in – i.e. don’t promise something that the boss says you can’t deliver! Ensure when you speak on behalf of a company that the sentiment is company wide.
Also, be timely. An apology even a couple of days later has lost momentum and looks bad, like you haven’t been bothering to listen. Or that you’ve been busy creating a response which can make it appear insincere. People will forgive many things but not being ignored or waiting unnecessarily.
See, it’s not so difficult!
Promptly. Apologise. Sincerely.