How to handle online complaints in this social media age

Last week a contact of mine, Guy Alvarez, shared a link to an article about a British Airways passenger who had paid over $1,000 on a promoted tweet telling people not to fly the airline because it lost his luggage.

How to handle online complaints in this social media age

BA’s customer service team didn’t handle the situation well so the passenger paid to get his message heard and made sure it appeared in the twitter feeds of followers of BA.


To make matters worse, it took BA a long time to respond to the tweet and not before rival airlines noticed it.

Which begs the question:

How would professional services firms fare in a similar situation?

It’s certainly not beyond the realms of possibility that this could happen. It’s anticipated that this could be the start of a new trend.

If the Living Ratings research released in April 2013 is anything to go by, many probably won’t even know about it…until someone tells them.

That’s because over half the firms studied by Living Ratings didn’t respond to an inbound enquiry through Twitter.

That’s scary stuff.

Firms and individuals have got to be aware of what (if anything) is being said about them so that they can determine whether, and if so how, to respond. There are so many monitoring tools (both free and paid) out there that there’s really no excuse.

It’s also a reason why it’s so important to have an agreed process in place that allows staff to respond quickly and professionally where appropriate. If things need to be escalated and will take time to resolve, have some holding phrases your authorised team members can use so the complainant and your other clients and followers can see you’re doing something about the situation.

What could firms do in a similar situation?

1. Determine whether a response is necessary – if it’s a promoted tweet it definitely is!

2. Respond quickly and via an authorised spokesperson to avoid a number of people jumping on it at once – often it will be sufficient to say ‘we’re sorry you had a bad experience. We want to put it right. Can you DM us your phone no. so we can call you and sort this out?’

You don’t need to have these discussions in public. The main thing is that others can see you’ve responded and are onto it.

3. When you can’t address the issue immediately, because it requires further investigation, post a holding message such as ‘we’re sorry you had such a bad experience. We’re currently looking into things and will update you [by when?]‘ This shows people that you know about the issue and are responding. 

It’s important that you have a number of these pre-agreed so they don’t have to be approved at the time a crisis arises.

Handled correctly, an online complaint can win you the lifetime loyalty of a customer while promoting your brand as one who cares about your clients.

Handled incorrectly … well you don’t want a promoted tweet identifying your firm as one lacking in client service!

How are you prepared to deal with online complaints?

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Specialising in professional services and law firm marketing. I help firms to retain and grow existing clients and attract more of their ideal clients. My core services include social media for lead generation, voice of the client programmes and tender strategy and development. Outside of work I love to run. I’m a bit like Forest Gump in that I’m not that quick but can keep going for ages. I also enjoy coming up with new inventions. Unfortunately, most of them have already been invented! | * Professional services marketing consultant | * Legal marketing consultant | * Law firm marketing consultant