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How Not To Tweet With Your Customers
By: Dominique Ellis
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We’ve all heard the horror stories of businesses handling complaints and bad feedback on social media poorly. Social media is all about transparency and opening up new lines of communicating with customers. Some business owners, however, can feel sucker-punched when they receive negative comments on their social media accounts. Often, this leads to the gross mismanagement of a communication tool.
As an article on this very subject that ran on American Express Open states that “Attacks [on social media] are a bit tougher to deal with, because they’re more likely to feel personal. You should always try to keep in mind that this type of feedback, as harsh as it may be, has a basis in a real problem. It is best to respond promptly and with a positive vibe.”
Over lunch with a fellow social media consultant the discussion turned to this very topic. It was then that I was introduced to the Twitter debacle that recently occurred between a new local restaurant and a prominent social media strategist. When the strategist and a friend stopped by the restaurant and found it closed they were so bummed they tweeted their dismay. Here’s what ensued (please note that Twitter names have been omitted).

We were going to go to @restaurant but they closed at 10. Kelley was going to eat her 1st burger in 3 years. #sadsies
@customer we will be here tomorrow, open bright and early at 11am...im sure yall will need a hangover cure.

It all started off well. Apparently though, the tweeter’s friend then posted a “we’re so bummed!” comment on the restaurant’s page on Yelp. This is when the-you-know-what hit the fan and the restaurant started an all out attack.

@customer really u have ur friend post a yelp review because yall couldnt tell the time and accept the fact that we were closed? #badmove
@customer to go after someones business because you couldnt get u want is pathetic and spoiled.

@restaurant I don't know why you are angry at me?
@customer even tweeting about it is lame...its whiny. get over it

At this point, the customer, taken aback at the rudeness, tries to reason with the restaurant. She even apologies and still the poor tweeting contiued.

@restaurant I stated that we wanted to go there & were sad. It's the same as someone saying they wanted to go on Tues & you're closed.
@customer yea i know its amazing, restaurants close sometimes #knowthehours
@restaurant Dude, you need to relax. I don't feel like I said anything negative. I am sorry if I have upset you.
@customer  u need to tell ur friend to take that s*** off of yelp

Yep, they cursed at a customer. On Twitter, nonetheless, where all their other clients could see. The conversation went on and other Twitter followers chimed in at their shock at the whole exchange.
The next day, the restaurant’s tweets included massive apologies. “Today’s special: contrition.” Needless to say, they wised up. But the damage had been done. Customers, other restaurants, and social media professionals across the city were tweeting and posting the heck out of the whole sad conversation.
The restaurant owner could have avoided this whole catastrophe by remembering a few simple social media rules when it comes to dealing with bad feedback from customers.
1) NEVER respond to rudeness with rudeness.
Bad comments about a company are a fact of life. This business owner actually missed a great opportunity here. Instead of replying to the less-than-favored Yelp comment with sarcasm and rudeness, a simple response asking what sort of hours customers would like to see the restaurant open would have done away with the whole situation in one post. Not to mention ingratiate the customer for listening to their woes and wants.
2) Tweeting after business hours is probably not a great idea.
We can all see how this played out. It was late. Drinks we possibly involved. Not exactly the best time to be responding to disgruntled clients no matter what your business. This could have waited 'til the morning when the light of day would have perhaps provided some better clarity about the entire episode.
3) Take a step back and review the situation before replying.
One could argue that in this situation the customer’s comments weren’t negative or rude to begin with. They were pumped about eating at the restaurant, they found it closed, and took to the social networks to express their disappointment. Was the Yelp comment needed? Probably not. Were the comments that ensued from the restaurant necessary? Absolutely not. Taking the time to reflect and recognize that this was a situation best handled positively would have served this restaurant owner well.

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About the Author
Dominique Ellis is a marketing and public relations consultant working in New Orleans. In addition to being a Dukky Brand Evangelist, her clients span from NOLA to NYC. Find her online here
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