Troll in the Dungeon: How Your Business Can Provide Customer Service In A Facebook Flame War

Facebook Trolling & Your Business

If you are a business that is active on Facebook, at one point or another you are likely to receive some form of negative customer feedback. Whether it be a customer service issue, a complaint about the usability of your website, or a problem with one of your products, unhappy customers are sometimes simply the cost of doing business. You can be doing everything right, but once in a while, complaints happen.

There are plenty of blogs, podcasts, and books that offer great business advice on how to provide great customer service online and how to properly deal with negative feedback from customers. You probably already know that directly handling negative feedback online, quickly and efficiently, provides you with an opportunity to delight a customer and show off your great customer service skills.

What you may not know how to handle, and may not have experienced yet, is when simple customer service complaints on your Facebook page get turned into an ugly battle between the original poster and random Facebook users, with your company stuck in the middle.

Since most Facebook wall posts are “public,” and can be seen by anyone visiting your Facebook page, nearly anybody has the ability to comment on a post left for you from another Facebook user. If somebody browsing your page sees a customer complaint that, for one reason or another, they don’t agree with, they have the ability to comment on that post saying pretty much whatever they want. This can often lead to more trouble for you than the original complaint itself.

What do we mean? Check out this great example below:

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In this instance, GameStop broke the #1 cardinal rule of Facebook customer service – they didn’t respond to the original complaint.  That, in it of itself, is unfortunate. Even more unfortunate was the comment outbreak that took place below. Of the many examples we found over a wide range of brands’ Facebook pages, this GameStop exchange is relatively mild.

Some may see this type of behavior as “Facebook trolling,” which it may very well be. The word “troll” has a pretty harsh connotation to it, and we’re not sure if it’s exactly accurate. Most of the time, these opinionated comments are coming from real Facebook accounts of real customers who simply tend to believe that the original post isn’t warranted.

If you’re already good at handling negative customer feedback or complaints on Facebook, it should be no surprise to you that situations like this most definitely need to be addressed. However, as this new trend in cross-customer interaction rises, it maybe uncharted territory for you as a business. It would be easy to brush off the pile-on of user comments as “trolling,” and perhaps that’s what it is – but guess what? At one time or another, these users are probably also patrons of your business. If your goal is to be a diplomat for your company, we’ve compiled some simple tips on how to deal with this:

Just Don’t

A knee-jerk reaction by a business or marketing manager might be to start deleting the comments against the original customer complaint, or simply to turn off the ability for users to leave posts to your Facebook wall at all. Both of these moves are a mistake. Your customers need to know you care enough to handle their complaint directly, and turning off their ability to leave you feedback will probably leave them even more frustrated. Also, there is always the possibility of receiving even more backlash from the additional users looking to speak their mind on the post. This is sticky territory, and stifling anyone could quickly make you the bad guy.

Quickly Diffuse

Try to diffuse the situation as best you can by moving the conversation away from public social media as soon as possible. Suggest the customer sends you a private message so you can discuss their problem further. This will let the customer know you are willing to solve their problem, while also moving the conversation to a private environment. While this is online customer service 101, the hope is that by doing this, there will be no reason for others to “dog pile,” onto the post if it’s already resolved. It will also remind other users of your great response time to customer service complaints, even if they believe the original complaint is unwarranted.

Move On

It’s very unusual to see brands take on these “troll” comments head-on. However, if you find that you have a post that is simply getting out of control, it might be a good idea to step in. The last thing you want to do is show you don’t care, and staying silent while commenters are attacking each other may not give the best appearance of your brand. Crafting a well-thought out response to what may be taking place on the post is a great way to remind both the original poster, as well as the “trolls,” that you care about all their opinions but are ready to put the situation to rest. The main goal with anything you write is to bring the activity on the post to a grinding halt. Here’s an example:

“Thank you everyone who has taken the time to leave a comment on this post. While we have addressed and resolved the issue with the original poster, we appreciate everyone’s opinion on this situation. We consider this matter closed, and look forward to having you all as valued customers for many years to come.”

Once you’ve said your piece, move onto the next matter of the day. After all, we’re all adults here, and you’ve already done what you can to ensure a good, peaceful and customer-first presence for you brand. Eventually, the dust will settle and the disruption will soon be a distant memory.

Take the Rebel Approach

 **WARNING** This is an approach that should be used with extreme caution. Knowing your audience and your customers is a must, as the following could easily backfire.

Recently, fast-food chain Wendy’s got quite a bit of attention due to their no-holds bar approach of handling complaints on social media:

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The marketing specialist(s) at Wendy’s handle Facebook comments in an unusual fashion, by quickly firing back at (what they feel are) unwarranted complaints in a playful way.

In doing this, Wendy’s gained a lot of media attention, as well as legions of happy followers who were glad that a brand finally stood up against erroneous customer complaints on social media.

Don’t get us wrong, after perusing Wendy’s Twitter and Facebook, it’s obvious they handle legitimate negative customer feedback with the care that any business should. However, their team is sharp enough to be able to decipher between truly unsatisfied customers that had a negative experience in their restaurants, from users who are complaining for the sake of complaining (or those simply just trolling). They are also doing a pre-emptive strike against what may ultimately turn into a social media comment war amongst users by diffusing the “complaint” early, and ultimately leveraging the whole situation for positive PR.

Are we recommending you do this? Probably not. However, the lesson to be gained here is that no business should be afraid of humanizing their brand and their social media interaction with customers in a playful way. Taking on a persona-esq character when handling social media complaints with haste may also cut down on Facebook comment wars, if it ever should happen to you.

Bottom Line

Is the customer always right? Maybe, maybe not. Whether or not this is a philosophy you follow doesn’t mean that all of your customers (or even some Facebook trolls!) will agree in certain situations. The important thing to remember (whether you are a customer service diplomat or you take the playful Wendy’s approach) is that it’s always important to stay true to your brand. Managing user interaction on social media outlets is not an easy job, and one that you should not bog yourself down with too much. At the end of the day simply providing the best possible customer service, while taking measure to safeguard your outlets (or your brand) from becoming tarnished by unfortunate events such as these, will ensure your ability to peacefully manage your Facebook community with ease.

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