We All Just Want To Be Heard:
Online Complaints from
Customers and Employees
Rob Zaleski

There have been countless examples of social media being used by customers and employees of businesses to express their dissatisfaction. In the airline industry alone, social media complaints by passengers have escalated to nearly 30 percent according to the Los Angeles Times. The perceived anonymity that comes with online presence often encourages people to be more critical than they would normally be face-to-face, and this can be tough to deal with as a business owner. There are a few things to consider when these situations happen online, whether they come from your employees or your customers.

Employee criticism: Make sure your company has a social media policy that is clearly outlined and available to all employees. Bad sentiment is bad sentiment, no matter who shares it, and you want to make sure your employees understand their responsibility when it comes to discussing your business online. Also, bear in mind that Yelp actually has a policy against current or former employees writing reviews of a business. You can leverage this guideline to have Yelp remove any reviews written by employees if they mention their employment at your business. The best approach, though, is to encourage your employees to use social media to help build and represent your brand, and make them feel like they are truly part of your team’s success.

Customer criticism: The most prevalent reasons people complain on social media are to make others aware of their experience and to simply be heard. Showing that your business is listening to customers and paying attention speaks volumes, and can possibly circumvent a situation before it ever escalates to social media crisis level. One of the primary objectives of our reputation management service at Main Street Hub is to promptly respond to reviews, posts and comments, both complimentary and otherwise.

We’ve seen situations where a simple outreach to a customer, especially when the complaint is mostly around customer service, can completely change the perception of the business, and even turn customers with poor experiences into advocates for a business. According to a recent American Express study, 48 percent of Americans say they will tell an average of 15 people about a good customer service experience, while 56 percent say they will definitely tell others about a poor experience, spreading the word to an average of 24 people. Which side do you want your business on?

Because people want to be heard and want to share their story with others, you should never ignore complaints or try to sweep them under the rug by hiding or deleting comments. This has almost always been shown to exacerbate situations online. Based on Edison Research, 58 percent of people expect a response to their complaint online within a few days, the rest expect a response within an hour, as referenced in the image below:

[Image from Convince & Convert]

Promptly responding in a way that shows your customers that you care about their experiences and want to resolve their issues is your best bet to not only avoid losing them, but potentially turn them into advocates of your business. Remember, it’s six to seven times more expensive to acquire a new customer than it is to keep a current one. Those who are the most vocal about their poor experiences can also be the most vocal about their pleasant ones; that’s an opportunity you don’t want to miss.

Have you had any success stories turning a customer complaint around? What’s your approach when it comes to addressing customers online? Share your story in the comments below!


Rob Zaleski [@robzie_] is the social media community manager at Main Street Hub. (acquired by GoDaddy)

Main Street Hub is the “do-it-for-you” marketing platform for local businesses. The company offers the only full-service social media management product that’s focused exclusively on local merchants at a price point they can afford. Main Street Hub helps its clients attract more customers, extend their customer service through social media, grow revenue by spreading word of mouth and manage their online reputation on social media websites including Facebook, Twitter, Yelp, Google+, Foursquare and TripAdvisor.