We’ve all dealt with upset customers – those who had a legitimate complaint and those who just want to rant.

But I urge you to consider the two as one. Because regardless of which situation it is, both should be handled exactly the same way.

Why? Because I’m a big believer that if we have the right mindset towards these situations from the onset, it will be much easier to handle them when they arise.

Let’s be honest – we all have different perspectives, tastes, definitions for how we want to be treated, and definitions of what a good product or service means to us. So when someone gets upset, the best thing we can do is acknowledge it, even if it doesn’t make sense to us. Because it could make total sense to them.

Basically, I stand with the motto I heard growing up in my parent’s businesses, “the customer is always right.” We’ve all heard it before, and while you may disagree, I encourage you to see the bigger picture.

We don’t live in a society where we can keep negative situations quiet anymore. The person who walks into our business or buys something online and isn’t pleased could end up being our worst nightmare by spreading that negativity everywhere.

But it doesn’t have to end that way.

I’ve been working in some form of customer service since I was ten years old, and that’s no joke. When you grow up in a family restaurant, and beg to make that bling you see sliding into the waitress’s aprons – the lessons start early. And due to my intense personality, I had to learn quickly how to deal with unhappy people or risk losing my job.

However, that lesson has served me greatly throughout my life – continually given me raises, promotions, and helped me to make my business what it is.

Because I view negative feedback as an opportunity. There’s even a strange part of me that’s pleased when someone gets upset because I get to smooth it out and make someone’s day. There’s no denying I’m a major fan of these mental exercises.

But mostly because I know that some of our most loyal and vocal customers will come from the folks who initially despised us or our brand.

Here’s how to deal with upset customers on social media (and in everyday life).

  1. Change your perspective.
    As I’ve already said, our perspective is one of the most important things we carry with us in negative situations, and it can make or break the outcome.

The first thing we must do is to understand that anyone and everyone who frequents our business or hangs out with us online is precious – they are a human who deserves to be treated well. If they’re spending money on us or simply talking to us, we want to take every opportunity to treat them with respect and develop a relationship, especially when it comes to online relationships.

A lot of folks on social media see a disconnect between the relationships they develop online and those developed in person. I don’t. To me, they are the same. That perspective not only helps me to be aware of how I treat online relationships, but often reminds me to go the extra mile to be kind or thankful because they can’t see me.

And hey – they don’t have to like me. Or share my content. Or talk to me at all. But it’s an honor they do!

When we change our perspective and understand that the little avatars online are real people, it’s much easier to handle negative situations when they arise.

  1. Take a step back.
    There’s a quote that says we shouldn’t make decisions when we’re emotional, and that’s wise advice when dealing with angry people. No, it’s not easy to hold ourselves back or not react, but we must.

I call it – putting on our adult pants and dealing with it.

Take a step back when someone says something negative. Over the years, I’ve had numerous people leave negative comments on Facebook Ads, via Twitter, and on blogs. The initial emotion is defensive, and possibly annoyed, frustrated, or angry. But NONE of these emotions will aid us in handling the situation.

When we purposefully take a step back, we regain our power to look at the situation objectively.

Let the emotion go, let the hurt ego subside, and try to view it objectively. What are they really upset about? What are they trying to say?

Online communications are often misconstrued, so it’s vital we step back and evaluate what’s going on before reacting.

I’ve been in situations where I waited an hour or more before responding. Do NOT rush or feel the need to handle the situation immediately, regardless of how damaging the comment is. How you reply is imperative, so give yourself the permission to wait until you can do it objectively.

  1. Acknowledge the issue and apologize.
    The next step, and the first step towards your reply will be to acknowledge the problem and apologize, regardless of what you think.

But hey, we’re in our higher selves now, right? So let’s proceed that way.

“Hi, Robert. Thank you for reaching out to let us know the product didn’t work correctly. I’m very sorry for this inconvenience.”
“Good afternoon, Janice. We’re sorry to hear your experience at our store wasn’t as it should be, no one likes being in that situation.”
“Hello, Paul. I’m so sorry to hear our service isn’t what you’re looking for – we want you to be happy.”

What’s most important when crafting a reply is that you don’t use some canned, automated sounding crap.

Be honest. Be human. Be real. Be empathetic. If you answer them with some generated response, they’ll be even more upset. And they should be!! We’re dealing with a person here – speak naturally.

And use “I” whenever possible. Depending on your business, it may be more appropriate to use “We,” but make sure to sign a name at the end either way.

I always sign my replies “-Ahna” because it helps alleviate the disconnect they feel with leaving a comment online and reminds them they’re talking to a real person.

  1. Offer a solution that makes sense for them.
    The second part of that response will be offering a solution that makes sense for them – not us.

When dealing with upset customers or prospects online for my clients, I contact the client to discuss the best solution we can offer them. If this is your business, then you get to skip that step. But I always involve the client because sometimes they think of things I don’t or are able to go above and beyond what I was going to offer. In addition, it keeps things transparent with the client.

Because of my background, I’m a fan of reimbursing an angry customer and adding on something extra for their frustration. Deciding how you will deal with unhappy customers is something that should be outlined ASAP, if you haven’t already.

But do yourself this one favor: do NOT ever consider a financial loss to be more important than making a situation right with a customer online. Over the years, I’ve been blown away while working with some clients who refuse to reimburse customers to make it right, even when the problem was clearly on their end. The money you save is rarely worth the customer you lose.

“Hi Janice, we’re sorry to hear your chocolate arrived a melted mess – that’s terrible! We’re going to reimburse you for your purchase and send you a fresh package on us.”
“Hi, Dan, thank you for making us aware you weren’t able to access your service this month. We have resolved that issue, and are happy to reimburse you for the month and give you the next two for free.”

Make sure the solution replaces whatever they’ve lost at minimum. And to get those customer service gold stars – include an extra.

  1. Ask them if it solves the problem.
    The final piece in your reply is to ask them if your solution solves the problem. This is KEY because you want to know (and you want anyone else who’s reading this ordeal to know) 1) if they are happy with the outcome and that 2) you care.

If we don’t ask whether our solution makes them happy, we undercut them by assuming all is well with our actions. In essence, it makes us look like we don’t care, and that can leave people feeling cold even though we offered something fantastic.

“Hi, Nikki. Thank you for letting us know the sweater was shedding, your feedback is very important. We apologize for the extra frustration on your end, and want to send you a new one with an additional 30% discount on your next order with us. Our company prides itself on quality clothing and we want to make sure you’re happy. Does this sound like a good solution for you?”

By wrapping it up and making them admit that the solution works for them, it also unconsciously closes the problem in their mind. At this point, they calm down and are thankful because they feel acknowledged and cared for.

  1. Follow up.
    The follow up is where most businesses fall short, and where your business can shine bright!

Wait a week or a few, depending on the situation, and then reach back out to them and make sure they are pleased. If it’s a product replacement, make sure the new product works as it should. If it’s a service replacement, makes sure they’re pleased with it.

When we take the extra step to follow up it can seal the deal to changing them into a loving and loyal customer because it’s personal and unexpected.

And if you’re doing business right – you always want to do the unexpected.

Finally, sometimes all the respectful talk in the world won’t absolve situations, and we’ve got to learn to let that go. I’ve dealt with ranters who simply wanted to push and push, and I had to say, “Thank you for your feedback, we will do our best to ensure this doesn’t happen again.” Or, “I appreciate your honesty and will make sure to handle things differently the next time.”

We always win when we acknowledge, apologize, and offer a solution that works for them.
But if that can’t be done, the next best thing is to simply thank them, and let it go. Ruminating on a hard situation only infects our day and we can’t allow that to happen. Negative commentary will occur, regardless of how awesome your business is, so don’t take it personally. Change your perspective and view it as an opportunity.

I hope this layout serves you well in dealing with negative situations online. If ever one occurs and you’re uncertain of how to deal with it, feel free to reach out to me – I loveeee turning a negative into a positive!

Now it’s your turn – did I leave anything out?? Would you handle it a different way? Share below!