Social Listening: How to Handle Disputes & Complaints

Jul 24, 2017

As a rule of thumb, the best way to deal with conflict is addressing it face-to-face. Face-to-face communication has the benefits of tone of voice, voice inflection, body language, and personal presence. Emotion is much better conveyed in person. What happens when someone comments on your social media with a complaint or dispute, though? You can’t just ask every person to march up to your office and have a sit-down with you. So, we are going to talk about how to handle conflicts on social media — or what we call social listening. Take notes, folks. Here we go.

How to Handle Disputes and Complaints on Social Media


Social Listening: How to Handle Disputes & ComplaintsSocial media is an amazing communication channel, but as you likely know, social media has a dark side. Because there is a level of anonymity, people tend to lose their filters and say whatever they please without thought of the feelings of others. Keep this in mind throughout your dealings with social conflicts. You don’t know what the person on the other end of your screen is dealing with. That doesn’t make the problem go away, though. So, let’s deal with it.

Do some self-analyzing.

Before responding to any comments or messages, take a moment for introspection. Are you angry about what the person said to you? Do you feel like you want to prove a point to them? Do you feel defensive? Check those feelings, and be aware of them.

Now, if you are feeling particularly steamed, feel free to write out a blazing response with all the rage in your heart. Save the message as a draft, and leave it where it is. Don’t send it. You can review it again when you’ve cooled down.

If you are upset, but not necessarily emotional, just wait for a few hours or for a full day, if you need the extra time.

Address the issue.

If you find that you are in a pretty neutral space emotionally, you are ready to move on and form a response to the person. There are a couple of different response paths that you can take to address the issue. Be aware of what is most comfortable to you, what the situation calls for, and how high the situation’s stakes are. These all dictate how to move forward.

Now, here are your options for action:

  1. Do nothing. If the comment or message is low stakes and irrelevant, this is a good choice of action. Your time is limited, so don’t waste it dealing with people who are complaining just to complain. Be aware, though, that this method should be used only if the conflict is irrelevant to your business.
  2. Deal with the conflict indirectly. Here is another method that is appropriate for low-stake situations. This is method that should be used with care, and note that dealing with a conflict indirectly does not mean speaking passive aggressively. That is never a good choice. Instead, take action to deal with the conflict without specifically addressing the complaint or dispute that was made. Be intentional about the steps you are going to take and act as efficiently as possible. If you don’t address the problem directly, you should act swiftly to keep the conflict quiet.
  3. Address the conflict directly. This is the preferred method for all things relevant and worthy of your time. Remembering that conflict can be a positive thing, this method allows you to connect with a concerned  person and get a better idea of what your customers/clients are feeling. Then you can continue to make people your business.
  4. Delete the comment. See this action method as an extreme. This should be used very, very rarely. Remember that the Internet is forever, for one thing. For another, note that your deleting of a comment doesn’t delete the conflict.

With all of these methods, do your best to be empathetic. Put yourself in the commenter’s shoes, and work to understand them more than you are trying to get them to understand you. Both are important, but being a caring listener will help you so much more than being an outspoken talker will.

Move forward.

Handle the problem as quickly as possible, because it will only stress you out if you let the issue linger. Then, keep moving forward with your business.

Related post: Harnessing Negative Social Media

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