How to Turn a Complaint into Good PR

This article was originally posted on by Andrea McGowan.

Andrea provides us with a great step by step approach on how we can deal with complaints which emanate through Social Media and how to turn the engagement into a positive experience.

The sudden and massive growth of the social media industry and culture has brought with it huge opportunities for businesses, but also some challenges to overcome. One of the things that a lot of professionals seem to be worried about is the dreaded complaint. Where social media allows us as marketers to communicate with a mass market, instantly, and for free, but it also works the other way. Disgruntled former employees, angry customers, competitors, even current employees all have access to social media, and they're free to do whatever they want with it. So what do you do when somebody complains about your company online? 1.       Stop When you're passionate about what you do, and somebody criticises that, it's difficult not to get angry or upset. Social media may be an opportunity for instant communication, but that doesn't mean you need to respond straight away. At the same time, don't wait too long or your customers won't feel like they're being listened to. It's important to spend some time thinking about how you will respond so that you ensure you don't say something you'll regret later. At this point, decide whether or not you can keep the conversation public. This is where your PR opportunity comes in. If you don't need private details from the customer, keep it public so that all of your other connections can see how far you're willing to go to keep your customers happy. 2.       Apologise If the complaint is caused by a mistake or an error on your part, apologise. Often, those who complain are just looking for recognition and a response. Being able to say 'I'm sorry, that shouldn't have happened to you' will win you favour with the majority of your online connections. 3.       Fix the problem If there's anything that you can do to fix the issue, do it as soon as possible. If you can't fix the issue, offer some kind of compensation -  a discount next time your customer visits, a free product, a phone call from the manager, anything that might brighten up somebody's day. You'll soon build a reputation as being a 'company who cares.' 4.       Follow up If you've followed step 3 and sent your unhappy customer a free product, or given them a discount for next time, follow up with them to check how well this worked. Send them a tweet or post to check in and see how they're doing. By this stage, you'll have built a relationship with this customer and they should be happy that you're doing all that you can to keep them happy. Again, this is another great PR opportunity, let your connections see that you want to keep your customers happy. 5.       Some people will never be happy! There will always be one person (or more, if you're unlucky) who you cannot keep happy. The saying goes 'you can keep some of the people happy all of the time, or all of the people happy some of the time, but you can't keep all of the people happy all of the time.' The sooner you accept the fact that you're chasing an impossible task, the better. What's more, the proliferation of internet trolls has made the average social media user very good at spotting them. When somebody is being unreasonable, it will be clear to your other connections as well as you. Do remember that the 'Report Spam' and 'Block' buttons are there for a reason, and don't be afraid to use them. What has your experience been like with online complaints? Let us know in the comments. Image kindly reproduced from