Why berating your customers on Facebook is a bad idea…

A friend of mine runs a very successful club. Occasionally, as with anything where people are involved, there are complaints from customers. Last night was such an occasion.

My friend – let’s call him James – got a vicious attack posted on his Facebook page by a customer who felt he had been over-charged for a drink. This is the right of the customer, and anyone with a social media account should be prepared for people using it as a customer service outlet.

It was certainly a libelous post by the customer, but it could also just have been read as a rant, which is what social media was made for.

James, however, responded from his heart, and ranted back.

This is where it all goes wrong. Other customers and fans of the club could see the response, without knowing the full story. I was a bit shocked when I read it as it doesn’t reflect well on James, the club, or their attitude to their customers who don’t wholeheartedly agree with everything they say. And who has angelic customers all the time?!

I advised James to rethink his reply as the negative PR he was creating with his anger could cause the club untold damage.¬†Turns out that James had had various emails with the customer before he posted his complaint on Facebook, and James just reached the end of his tether. No one seeing the FB post or James’ reply would know that though, which makes it doubly important to reflect before you post online, in the context of it being seen as a stand-alone comment.

The thing about social media, is that it is all about social proof. We believe the words and opinions of strangers, especially when they appear to be in a fight with “the man”. People don’t care about the back story. They care about the here and now.

James took my advice, and that of other friends who felt the same as me, and subsequently edited his response to make it more professional and PR-friendly. It’s always best to nip these things in the bud publicly, no matter how you actually feel about it. The customer is always right, remember. Except when they’re wrong and then there are diplomatic ways of wording that.

The moral of this story is to take a breath before you post and think what others will think of you and your business before you start a big old rant.