Dealing with Difficult People in Social Media and Online

Dealing with

I posted yesterday about Social Media Customer Service. Today I discuss when you get a difficult person on your social media account. It is not a matter of if, but when you will have someone to be outspoken on your page. I use the term outspoken very loosely. There are many reasons why a person may act out on a page/account. They range from a bad experience to you were the lucky page that person landed on that day.

As I stated above people are disgruntled for many reasons. The first one is a customer that has had a bad experience. They may not have felt they were listened too or the problem seems like it won’t be resolved. These people have a legitimate gripe with your company you should take seriously. It’s not a random person who stumbled across your page.

The next is one who is being difficult just to be difficult. They could be a disgruntled customer or just a stranger having a bad day. It may involve posting vulgar things on your pages/accounts. These are people who no matter what you do to make happy, will never be happy. Be tactful when dealing with these.

The last I will cover is if you are in social crisis. People who disagree with what you posted will come to voice their opinion. People in social media can be vicious. If you fall into this category I would highly urge you to seek out a Crisis PR professional to help you. This is different from the others. That is because you can escalate things in the matter of a few key strokes. If you do respond be respectful and professional.

Here are some best practices for dealing with the first two kinds of difficult people.

  • Acknowledge – Let them know you see their complaint and want to help them. Do this in public and let others know you want to solve the problem.
  • Listen – Listen to what they have to say. Don’t interrupt or interject while they are explaining. Sometimes people just want to know their complaint is heard by someone who cares. This should calm them down so you can help solve the problem.
  • Take it off line – Take the conversation off line to deal with the problem. Especially if it deals with sensitive information such as credit cards, order numbers or passwords. Its safer for you and your customer.
  • Timeframe – Give a time frame for a follow up communication after you hear their problem. If you need more time let them know.
  • Be Honest – Notice a trend with social? Be honest if you can’t solve their problem right there. If you need to transfer them to someone else let them know who will be contacting them and when. Follow up with both sides to make sure this happened.

You won’t be able to do all these steps all the time. Some customers don’t want their problem handled in private. They want it taken care of right there. If the problem doesn’t involve sensitive information, feel free to help them. If it gets complicated, try again to take them off line.

If you have someone who no matter what you say or do satisfies them. Make sure you try to contact them publicly. This will let others know that you want to solve their problem. Also, you care about your customers. If you publicly try to solve the problem and the person doesn’t accept anything you off them. Other people will see that and know that person won’t ever be satisfied. If you give it an honest try to solve it and they reject every offer, there is nothing you can do for them. At a last resort block the person from your account. Only delete posts that contain extremely vulgar or illegal activities. Be transparent about the deleting and state why it was deleted to your community.

Difficult people will come to your page to vent and get their problem solved. Some you can deal with and make them happy. While others will not be satisfied no matter what you try to do. No matter which you get start out the same way. Acknowledge them and let others know you want to solve your customer’s problems.

It’s the old golden rule, “Treat others the way you want to be treated!”

Tim is the founder of Element33. A social media agency specializing in education, management and strategy for small businesses. He comes from a traditional marketing agency but has embraced all things digital. He considers himself a marketing nerd and believes that all marketing is tied together. This means no matter what silo you are in, social, email, seach, etc, changes in one will affect the other!

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