Customer service 911: Dealing with angry customers on social media

1-15 Forrest Flinn blogLet’s face it: Social media is here to stay. Although still in its infancy, dealerships are leveraging social media in many traditional and non-traditional ways to support their dealership’s business goals. From time to time you may have a situation where one of your customers may go “rogue” and start blasting your dealership in a negative way that creates anger and confusion across your social media channels. Severe instances of angry customers on social media can spread like wildfire and become a full-blown social media crisis. By learning how to manage your angry customers and their negative feedback online you will increase your dealership’s social media success and achieve your social media goals.

Trying to diffuse an angry customer face-to-face is sometimes incredibly difficult and, when you are dealing with it online, the issues can seem to be even more challenging and dynamic. In social media, as in the case of most online conversations, the parties trying to communicate are somewhat insulated because they are behind a keyboard and not talking face-to-face. It is very easy to become angry and disconnected while “talking” on social media with your customers. Remember you can’t see the other person’s body language and hear their tone of voice, which only adds to the difficulty in online discussions that can often become heated. It is always a good idea to talk to your customer online with dignity and respect just as if they were standing in front of you. Talk with your customer on social media in the way that you would like to be talked to.

It is important that your dealership develops a strong process for dealing with upset customers both in person and on your social media channels. For example, if an angry customer is posting negative feedback on your Facebook page, it is recommended that only a management team member address the issues online. The goal is always to try and turn negative feedback into positive feedback as quickly as you can. Deal with the social media customer service issue just as you would any other face-to-face issue but remember that everything travels faster online — especially negative feedback. Even if mistakes have been made in your dealership, dealing with the issue from a high level and in real time demonstrates that your dealership is willing to listen and wants to solve customer issues. By doing so, you prove to your dealership’s social media community that you care about them and their needs, which in turn increases your dealership’s brand value.

Often online complaints from your customers via social media are coming from anonymous sources. Sometimes members of your social media community will defend your dealership’s brand or possibly go to the other extreme and side with the anonymous angry posts. If someone is bashing your dealership on social media, the key is to try to get more information from the person making angry comments. Try to find out who they are, their contact information and try to move the conversation offline if possible. If the anonymous poster persists bashing your dealership the next step would to be to block that poster and have the negative posts removed from the social media channels that your dealership uses.

I have seen in many cases, both in brick and mortar and on social media, where dealerships are too willing to give away free products and services to diffuse a heated customer service complaint — real or imaginary. It’s fast, it’s easy and it works some of the time but not effectively. By doing this you are completely devaluing the very products and services that you sell! Also, it sets a tone in your dealership community, online and in person, that if you complain you will get free stuff and this doesn’t always put the dealership in the best of light (not to mention it is very expensive to do). I have found that the customer just wants someone in the dealership to listen to him or her and care about his or her dealership experience.

The overall goal in dealing with angry customers online or negative feedback is to try to mitigate it in the first place. Angry customers and negative feedback can come from many different sources and take many different forms in the world of social media. You should always try addressing these types of situations in a timely manner; doing so makes your dealership look good to other members in your dealership’s social media community. Try to leverage your entire knowledge and experience that you have gained in dealing with angry customers face-to-face and apply that to your dealership’s social media strategies.

Dealing with difficult situations and angry customers is a fact of life in business. Managing your online/social media reputation is at the very basis of effective social media management. An old saying says that you cannot make 100 percent of the people 100 percent happy all of the time. This may be true but you should always remember that what is posted on social media often stays on social media and negative feedback seems to have legs that move very fast. By having plans in place to deal with these types of issues you are already ahead of the game in developing a good social media strategy and both increasing and protecting your dealership’s brand.

Forrest Flinn, MBA, PHR, SMS has been in the motorcycle industry for nearly 20 years and has been a true student and leader serving in various capacities. He previously worked as an implementation consultant for Lightspeed and as a general manager with P&L responsibility for a large metro multi-line dealership. Currently Forrest is the managing partner and chief visionary for a consulting firm that specializes in outsourced accounting, human resources, social media strategy, dealership operations consulting and Lightspeed/EVO training.


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