Three Easy Steps to Good Customer Service on Social Media

If you were online last weekend, you might have heard about the insane Amy’s Baking Company blowup on Facebook. To recap, Gordon Ramsey of “Kitchen Nightmares” fame visited a troubled restaurant and walked out on the owners in the first time of the history of the show. The  owners were in denial about the quality of their service and food, defensive about whether or not they needed to change anything, and blamed all of their problems on food bloggers and Yelp! reviews. They threatened people, fired people, blamed people, displayed terrible paranoid and messianic tendencies, and even denied stealing servers’ tips while totally copping to stealing servers’ tips.  It was… glorious.

For reality TV, anyway.

In real life? For your business? This is a customer service nightmare. The bad thing about social media is that as a business owner this is an opportunity to fall on your face, and an opportunity for the Internet (capital “I”) to laugh at you. However, it’s also an opportunity to show how classy and gracious to are to your clients and how eager you are to see they have a good experience.

No pressure!

"We appear to be cooperative, but we are just preserving energy for the next display of explosive rage."
“We appear to be listening, but we are just preserving energy for our next public display of explosive rage.”

It’s actually not that difficult to give good customer service on social media. Just don’t be a dick, don’t argue with the customer, and use the event of complaint as an opportunity to make things right.

1) Don’t be a dick.

Yes, it’s crass, but it’s also Life Rule #1 at Lauren’s house. Other Life Rules may have loopholes, but if you’re honest with yourself, you can always look back and determine whether or not you’re being a dick. The Golden Rule? Everything I need to know I learned from kindergarten? Do unto others? = Don’t be a dick. Don’t assume the worst of others. Don’t be difficult on principle. Don’t make it harder than it needs to be. Offer solutions and concessions.

2) Don’t threaten reviewers or argue with bad reviews.

Amy and Samy not only argued with bad customer reviews, they threatened these customers, threw them out of the restaurant, and forbade them from ever returning. Seriously! The police were called!

I’ve seen two brand-new local businesses argue with customer complaints on Facebook this year. One of them was a local restaurant that I was interesting in trying, but their defensiveness turned me off. They weren’t arguing with the customer so much as providing reasons and excuses as to why the customer complaints were invalid, eking out of any responsibility for the customer’s experience. My wish was that they had apologized for the bad experience, and offered to give them another try at X discount, or even a comped meal in exchange for a better review. Instead they argued, more than once, with more than one customer. I still haven’t tried that place and I’m their target audience.

3) Use this as an opportunity to make it right for the customer.

Did you accidentally fall into the trap of Rules #1 and/or #2? Whoops! Let’s make things right.

People take to social media because they are frustrated and don’t feel like you care about their good experience. Prove them wrong! This is the time when you pull out all the stops and try to retain them as customers. Offer a coupon, a free meal, a free service, a free offer, a discount, an alternative service or widget. Talk them up, send a card, APOLOGIZE.

If all else fails, ask the customer what you could do that would make them feel better about their experience. Try to do this thing, and if you can’t, offer a feasible alternative. Don’t use this as an opportunity to get passive-aggressive — ask with humility and good faith and try your best.

Amy and Samy above had some issues with these customer service rules, but that’s because they were more concerned with preserving their nice experience as restaurant owners than providing a pleasant experience for their customers. What kind of experience do you think they demand as customers from other restaurateurs? I would bet it looks very different than the kind of customer service they provided on the show.

Don’t be like Amy and Samy. Don’t be a dick.

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