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How to handle complaints on social media

Operating a small business can present some unique challenges when handling customer complaints.

Larger companies may have the luxury of a dedicated complaints department, but that doesn’t mean that smaller businesses can’t ace their social medial management, too!

Here’s our 4 key tips to handling complaints on social media so you can achieve a better outcome for both your customer and your business.


1. Understand the value of complaints

Customer complaints can be frustrating, especially when customers are unnecessarily aggressive or rude. However, complaints are a lot more valuable to your business than they may seem.

According to research by Esteban Kolsky, only 1 in 26 unhappy customers will actually reach out with a complaint. The ones that don’t? Well, they simply stop doing business with you. Kind of makes you wish they’d said something.

In short, the most important thing to remember about customer complaints is that they give you an opportunity to identify where something has gone wrong and fix it.

2. Answer quickly and publicly

Unlike phone, email and in-person complaints – social media is a public forum. That means that the way you handle a complaint will always be at least partially visible to the public. A record of your interactions with the customer will linger long afterwards and will contribute to how the quality of your customer service is perceived.

  • Remain calm and keep it professional. You should never match the energy of any aggressive or dramatic behaviour –the last thing you want to do is go viral for flying off the handle. Plus, it can discourage other complaints, which could actually help your business improve.

  • Treat all complaints equally. Even if you personally don’t think something is an issue, it could be serious problem to the customer. Listen, care, and stay respectful.

  • Stay human. Be calm and professional but avoid cracking out the thesaurus, as overly formal language can be alienating.

3. Develop a Complaint Handling Policy

As a small business operator, you may be too busy to constantly monitor your social media accounts. To help set reasonable expectations with customers (and direct more complaints to the channels that will allow them to be addressed promptly) you should a develop a Complaint Handling Policy that includes:

  • Contact methods customers can use make a complaint (and any relevant opening hours)
  • What steps you’d like the customer to take when making a complaint (supplying a receipt or reference number upfront can save some back and forth)
  • The steps you’ll take to achieve a resolution to the complaint (it’s a good idea to explain common solutions to common problems, such as replacements for faulty goods)
  • When customers can expect a response to their complaint (within 3 business days is a popular benchmark)

Once you have your Complaint Handling Policy, make sure it’s easy to find on your company website and/or social media accounts so more people have access to that information. Being transparent makes things easier for everyone involved.

4. Be proactive about getting customer feedback

Most transactions allow you collect some your customer’s contact info (and if yours don’t, you may want to change that). So, why not use that to check in with them after a sale or service? These business services can help you check customer satisfaction:

  • Esendex specialises in SMS surveys and their pricing packages include Pay As You Go options.
  • SurveyMonkey is a global leader in survey software and their Team Advantage plan allows up to 10,000 survey responses per year.
  • SurveyLegend is another survey software company that offers free accounts, but you’ll need to a Business plan to remove ads or increase complexity of your survey.

… Or if you don’t have the budget for any fancy tools right now, just reach out with a text, email or phone call. Checking in shows that you care, so do it whenever you can.

More information

If you’re a newbie or you just feel completely in the dark about customer complaints, never fear. There are some great resources out there to help you get your head around it. Here’s a few of our favourites:

Liked this article? Check out our guide on making the most of your small business presence on social media next.


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