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What to Do When Customers Get Mean on Social Media How dealing with angry customers can be an opportunity to show the world how your company cares about customer service.

By Scott Levy

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

There's a growing army of unhappy, sometimes bitter and angry customers who take to social media to vent their frustrations about a brand's products or services. Sometimes they can get so mean that their feedback is more an attack than a request for customer service.

No matter the size of your company, angry customer tirades can damage your reputation online. In my experience, you can encounter at least two types of unsatisfied customers communicating with you over social media:

  • A person who was genuinely hoping for a good experience with your product or service, had a bad experience and simply wants to vent and seek acknowledgment or a solution.
  • Someone who actively uses social media to dissuade people from doing business with your company, and probably doesn't care about your reply to his or her claims. This person hopes you do reply so he or she can drag you into a public fight.

Related: 5 Tips for Coping With Cranky Customers

Either way, dealing with these types of angry customers should be an opportunity to show the world how your company cares about customer service and that you stand behind your brand. With the right strategy, you can turn foes into fans and win new customers at the same time.

Here are five tips for responding to angry customers over social media:

1. Respond quickly. The longer someone waits for a reply the more steamed that person can become. Let the individual know publicly that you have heard his or her frustration or problem and that you're on it.

2. Never show anger or engage in negative banter. Don't stoop to an angry commentor's level, as it can quickly escalate. Taking the high road and not replying with negativity sets you up for the win in the eyes of anyone who's following along.

3. Be personal. The employees who manage your social media should sign their tweets or posts with their names or at least their initials to make the engagement more personable and real. Also be sure to address the customer by his or her name.

4. Work toward a resolution. Let the customer know that you're going to do everything within your power to make the situation right. Don't simply attempt to calm someone down and walk away.

5. Talk offline when necessary. Use direct messages on Twitter or email if the discussion is detailed. At least the initial response should be public, though, to let everyone know that you're on the issue and that you care.

Related: 5 Scary Mistakes to Avoid on Facebook

When you do come to a resolution, be sure to post about it. If you don't share the results, no one will know how you resolved the situation. This is your opportunity to show that you deliver top-notch customer service over social media.

If the negative comments persist, the person is most likely pushing you in hopes of seeing you falter publicly. All you can do is be polite, offer assistance and let the person -- as well as everyone else watching -- know that you're doing everything you can. Try offering a free gift as a token of appreciation. Whatever you do, don't engage in a public argument.

Have you had an unhappy customer contact you over social media? How did you handle it? Let us know in the comments below.

Scott Levy

Author, CEO and Founder of Fuel Online

Scott Levy is the founder and CEO of Fuel Online, an online marketing agency that focuses on social media and SEO. He has been specializing in online marketing for more than 15 years and is a respected speaker, writer and consultant. Scott was nominated for a 2014 Shorty Award for "social media's best business influencer" as well as recognized as a 2014 Hubbies finalist for "Influencer of the Year".  Scott is based in Nashville. Follow him on Twitter at @FuelOnline or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/FuelInternetMarketing

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