The Do's and Dont's of Online Customer Service

Social media is widely used for Customer Service these days so we always teach our clients to be ready for such events, whether in our workshops or our online courses.

This is a sign of the times and, as business owners, we cannot run or hide from this. So here are a few tips to be ready for complaints on social media and how you can shine from even the worst complaint.

Walmart have this sign up in their customer service department, it is their motto;


“our most valuable customers are our complaining customers”  

Think about this for a moment. If you visit a new restaurant, and the service, food, or surroundings are bad, more often than not you will not return. But if you visit your local establishment that you love and go to regularly, you will most likely complain. You will tell them they have let you down. Why? Because you care. Because you want them to improve.

Whilst discussing these complaining customers let’s consider a quote from a leading expert in customer service. Sir Richard Branson;


 “Unhappy customers who have a problem handled quickly and effectively end up being more loyal than if they never had a problem at all” 

Can you relate to this? I can.

We all know that sometimes things go wrong, it’s a fact of life. But if you are with a company that handles this effectively, that really listens to and looks after you when the inevitable happens, you are more likely to stay loyal to them in future. Because you know no matter what you will be looked after and respected.

Now here comes the important bit so pay attention;

It is not just your customers watching on social media. When someone watching (and our very nature makes us pay attention to complaints and how they are dealt with) sees that you are dealing with a complaint in a respectful and efficient way it makes them consider your service too. They get to see, without even being your customer, how brilliant your customer service is….or isn't!

A couple of examples

Tesco are particularly good on social media complaints, making them funny and entertaining. In turn they get funny complaints now as people want to see the hilarious responses. Check some out HERE.

Virgin trains had a funny episode one day with a toilet roll. Check that out HERE Virgin have to be the leading expert on customer service online.

So, how do you become super at customer service?

Well first of all it is important to recognise your own innate behaviour and that of the British public so let’s start with them.

In general (and there exceptions to every rule) British people do not like to complain. Very few actually ask for the manager in a shop. We are not confrontational as a nation and would rather not make a scene.

But being online gives us a false sense of security. Behind a keyboard we feel strong and protected. So we say things we would not ordinarily say to a manager standing in front of us.


So here comes your opportunity to shine. But hang on a minute, you are behind a keyboard too…hmmmmm. How are you feeling right now?

Most of us feel complaints are unjustified. This is understandable as we

  1. Don’t like to hear we are wrong or have messed up and
  2. Want to protect the reputation of our business

You need to STOP right now. Walk away.

I know, I know.......you are worried about it being left on there for all to see. The chances are someone has already taken a screen shot  and shared it anyway so DO NOT PANIC RESPOND. Go for a walk, take 10 minutes. Calm down. And use what one of my insightful customers shared with me, The Alcoholic Pause.

Ask yourself these three questions;

  1. Does it need to be said?
  2. Does it need to be said by me?
  3. Does it need to be said by me right now?

If you can answer yes to all three, and you have taken 10 minutes to calm down, then, and only then, may you answer.


Now here is how.

Resolve it publicly.

I complained once on Matalan’s Twitter page and what did I get? ‘Can you please DM us?’ Er…no.

Moving it offline makes you look guilty.

It makes it look like you like you have something to hide, get complaints all the time, don’t want people to know, or want to shut your client up and not help them. Remember it’s not just about your client, it’s about all the people watching.

By moving it offline you just lost them ALL as potential customers.

You don’t have to fix it all online and sometimes you may need to call that person to resolve it in a professional way. But definitely come back on to reflect it has been handled and definitely address that person respectfully online and acknowledge your next steps. For example,

“ I am so sorry you are having problems, this is not acceptable in any way. I want to resolve this for you so I will call you immediately to see how we can make you happy. “

Then return to say,

“thanks for accepting my call, I am glad we resolved this. Please do not hesitate to get in touch with any further issues.”

BAM! Social media GOLD.

But be careful, don’t get pushed into anything or overdo it just because its public.

Offering massive vouchers as an apology can open you up to trolls and tryer on erers (what? that's a word). Deal with a complaint the same way you would deal with it if a customer was standing right in front of you. Most people will see a reasonable response as just that. 

Does customer service on social media scare you? 

Or perhaps you have resolved a complaint more quickly by using social media. 

Tell us your stories.

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