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Proactive Complaint Handling On Social Media / Twitter


You’ve found a complaint on Twitter (short-form platform), and you’ve determined the individual is fairly influential, has followers and reach, and interacts a lot with people. So
you have a high-priority situation, worth addressing.


■ Identify Yourself (Humanize the Interaction) (1)
■ Apologize (with specifics) (2)
■ Offer of Help (3)
■ Pre-empitive Strike (4)
■ Acknowledgment (5)
■ Shift to Private (6)

Complainer: Will never buy another LP [product type]. Shoddy, inadequate warranty, waited two hours on phone for customer service.

How do you jump in to respond?

Employee: John, I’m Bob from LP customer service (1). Sorry for the problems (2). No way you should have had to wait on hold that long. Let me try to help (3)?

Complainer: Well, sure, I guess there’s nothing to lose.

Employee: To help I need some information. Sending you
a DM [private message] with e-mail address, so I can
get your information (3, 6). OK?

The complainer receives the DM and the employee’s e-mail address (the employee could have sent a phone number, too), and the effort to help then moves to a private venue.


In 140 characters it’s hard to accomplish anything substantive to solve the customer’s problems. The point of responding publicly via Twitter is to show a presence and
demonstrate attentiveness to complaints. Once the initial contact is made, the employee wants to take the conversation out of the public area, if for no other reason than to
preserve the complainer’s privacy and data. Besides that, there’s little advantage for anyone to conduct the conversation in public. Many may see the original complaint, but very few will see the response(s) from LP, making it futile to try to influence observers (who aren’t there or aren’t interested). Once the employee has the information, a follow-up process begins. Here’s how to do that.


How does one follow up via e-mail on the heels of a brief interaction in a short-form social media platform like Twitter? Here’s an example of e-mail content that fits the situation described above.

Dear John:

I’m Bob from LP, and we “tweeted” earlier today about your experience with one of our products and with customer service (1). I’d really like to find out more about this so we can help you, and so you can help us improve for everybody (3). I’d like to start by getting the facts and data clear, so I can see what’s happened. 

I need the product name,model, and serial number (on the bottom of the case), date purchased, and what the actual problem is, and what contact you’ve had with LP staff (3).
I know you may have told all of this before to someone else, so I apologize for asking again (2).

If you can get this information to me, I’ll be able to get back to you within one working day, tops. Any problems, e-mail me or call me on my direct line at [phone number].


First, Bob introduces himself and provides a context/reminder of their earlier contact (1). Next is an explicit offer to help “if we can.” Then a request for necessary information.
The e-mail also contains a preemptive strike (4), an acknowledgment (5), and an additional apology (2).


All of the principles outlined in this book apply to social media and e-mail. It’s important to check every e-mail you send to a customer for hints of annoyance or impatience,
which can “leak in” via unintentional language slips. Put yourself in the receiver’s place and review the e-mail before you hit “send.”

If you get a nasty response, just like in any other medium, don’t take the bait. Use “Broken Record” and “Set Limits” to get control of the interaction. Try not to use canned messages if you can avoid it.

Once again, it’s critical that you come across as a regular human being, and not some kind of LP drone. There will probably be some continued e-mailing back and forth to address the issues. Keep in mind that e-mail is a very poor medium for communicating feelings, which means that an apology is more powerful via voice than e-mail. If you need to offer a serious apology because the company has made a mistake, get the phone number, get permission to call, and use the phone.

Never say anything in e-mail that you don’t want public! In fact, never assume that anything you convey to a customer in any format will remain private. Angry customers
have the habit of “sharing” responses they get in private to a variety of people, and even taking bits out of context.

Finally, make sure your e-mail system keeps copies of what you send, and consider sending a “cc” (copy) to your boss or anyone else who might need to know what you’ve said. This is particularly important if you refer the customer to someone else. Send a heads-up, along with copies of the e-mails.

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