What can we learn from Applebee’s? OR, How to Handle a Social Media Meltdown in 5 Easy Steps

If you’re on social media, you will likely have to deal with an unhappy customer at some point. Unlike communicating via telephone, or even in person, the exchange is likely to be public, and archived for all time (Screenshots can come back to haunt you!). Here’s what you need to know about handling a social media crisis like this one.

Act fast. Head it off on the original social network where it appeared. If you can diffuse the situation not long after it starts, you’ll clip it’s likelihood of going negatively viral. Make your official response in the thread where it started. If you issue a second statement on the social network, like Applebee’s did, make it visible. Do not bury it in a comment thread.

Take the discussion offline. Contact the original poster (OP) and ask them to communicate with you via email or telephone. (Though if they refuse, there’s not much you can do about it.) Now is NOT the time to give them a generic customer service email. Preferably, have them contact you DIRECTLY (via personal email or a direct telephone line). Get a handle on the situation, find out what the grievance is, and do your best to get it cleared up quickly. Once it’s resolved, you or the OP can add an update to the original post to let other users know that the issue was resolved. If it’s applicable, you can discuss how it was resolved.

Eat crow. Even if you’re pretty sure you’re not to blame, have a slice of humble pie. You care about the customer (whether or not they’ve actually purchased anything from you), their feelings, and their future business. Bend over backwards to make it right. Everyone on social media is watching and discussing it, so make it a case study of what to do. Also? Watch out for that second buzzsaw.

penitent man

Be honest. If you or your organization screwed up, admit it quickly, apologize, and offer to make it right. And watch how you say it! If you use corporate-speak in your apology, it’ll feel to the customer like the apology came from a brick wall. People want to have their feelings acknowledged, and if you connect on a personal level, that’s much easier. BONUS: If you can have a sense of humor about it, it goes a LONG way toward diffusing the situation.

Let people vent. Often, people need to say their piece before they can listen to anything you have to say. Please, whatever you do:

  • do not delete unflattering comments
  • do not block the user (unless they are violating the policy of the page by, for example, using profanity, using slurs, or being abusive)
  • do not argue with users
  • Avoid repeating yourself. Applebee’s cut and pasted their responses over and over and over again. SUPER annoying!
  • If all else fails, you can always temporarily unpublish your Facebook page.

Please, for the love of Mike, use correct spelling, punctuation, and grammar. Don’t give people another reason to be irritated with you!

In our increasingly online and connected world, it’s best to be as transparent as possible. Be your absolute best self on social media, both personally and professionally.

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One thought on “What can we learn from Applebee’s? OR, How to Handle a Social Media Meltdown in 5 Easy Steps

  1. Pingback: What can we learn from Applebee’s? | Kathleen Heuer

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