How to tackle a social media customer complaint (Top Tip — don’t call the customer a retard)

31st July, 2014

AS a potential holidaymaker, it’s never been easier to check out a resort, hotel or hostel than it is today.
The world of TripAdvisor and other feedback and rating websites, and linking to them from social media, means finding out what others think — rather than believing the brochure — give the consumer more power, and choice, than ever.
For a business owner, it can be a minefield. The old British way was not to complain because it made everybody uncomfortable.
The new way is not to complain as you walk out the door... but to then slaughter your B&B online once you’re safely back at home.
The biggest trap for hoteliers and owners is to bite back — to go toe-to-toe with your critic and slug it out, misspelled criticism for badly phrased rebuttal, matching their negativity and their language.
That way only darkness lies.
This week Glasgow 18-30 hostel owner Todd Pederson found this out to his cost (although when you read the article below you may feel he learned nothing).
Todd created his very own social media crisis by responding to stinging criticism from a guest who had stayed at his hostel while attending the Commonwealth Games.
Because instead of patiently and positively dealing with her concerns, apologising for her dissatisfaction and offering amends, Todd decided, over a four hour long Facebook exchange that went viral, to call his unhappy guest a “retard”, a “cry baby” and then to suggest she was fat.
Unfortunately charity worker Lou Taylor refused to be cowed, her friends joined in (and Shared with everyone possible) and the exchange not only trended on Twitter, but ended up as a story in The Daily Telegraph.
It also led to someone doing a quick Google search on Todd and finding out he had a criminal conviction for punching someone to the floor on a Glasgow’s main party strip, Sauchiehall Street.
Hoteliers, and business owners generally, have to have the right to address what they feel to be unfair criticism.
But to forget that, once you commit yourself to debate online, your comments are open to the world is foolish.
When you handle a crisis, you often need to realise you’ll never win with the original complainant. But you can win with everyone watching.
You do that by considering your response and the words you will use.
You do it by being as positive as they are negative, telling people all the good things, calmly rebutting any absolute inaccuracies (as long as they are relevant and big enough to bother with), and proving yourself a business that cares about customer satisfaction and cares about reputation.
And definitely not calling anyone a retard.
See the whole story here on Buzzfeed: http://www.buzzfeed.com/patricksmith/a-glasgow-hostel-owner-and-guest-were-locked-in-the-most-hea
(Of course the best way to handle a social media crisis is to talk to a crisis comms expert. My number’s on the contacts page.)