How to Handle Complaints on Social Media

Last updated on October 6th, 2022 by

The world of customer service has dramatically transformed from phone call support lines to a host of mediums including phone, email and social media communications. And, if you’re in the business of serving people you know that much of customer service is addressing complaints and making customers feel heard.

We’re in an age where many complaints are no longer handled one-on-one during a phone call, but publicly displayed for all to see. And the fact of the matter is, you probably feel like many of the complaints are not justified. And like many other businesses, you’ve tried to find ways to remove these unjust reviews and complaints as quickly as possible.

Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on how you look at it) you likely cannot remove these reviews. Facebook, Twitter, Yelp, Google, etc., are attempting to build a community where trust is built and people are heard – no matter the grievance. So whether the complaint is from a cranky customer, a disgruntled former employee or a troll… don’t let these haters taint your company’s credibility. Instead, use a complaint on social media to show everyone else how wrong these haters are!




Jay Baer, Founder of Convince & Convert, wrote an article on Buffer outlining a framework for dealing with haters on social media.

FEARS acronym

Let us break it down for you…

Find All Mentions

You cannot address a complaint if you don’t know it exists. Social media listening tools will find customer feedback that’s not use @ to tag you. Baer says only about half of the people who complain on social expect to hear back from the company and more than 1/3 of all tweets to companies were about customer service issues. And only three percent tagged the company directly with the @ symbol.

A social media listening tool can assist in finding any mention of your business so you can address the comment or complaint.

Show Empathy

Of course, when someone attacks us our defenses go up and we attack (or retreat). Neither of these options are good. So instead, take a minute and breathe. Assess the situation and respond with empathy. Like… real empathy. Not a canned response like we’ve ALL received from the customer service line of our internet company.

“I’m sorry that happened to you, ma’am.”

No. No you’re not.

Baer says inserting empathy in your response “…doesn’t mean the customer is always right.” But “It does mean the customer is always heard…”

Answer Publicly

I know many times you’d rather message the “accuser” directly to address the problem. Or even pick up the phone to call. BUT, a public response can gain trust from on-lookers. All the spectators sitting in front of their computer shoveling popcorn in their face waiting for the mic to drop want to see how you respond. And when you respond, and respond well, it shows your good character.

Reply Only Twice

This can be SO hard to do. Especially if the hater is raving and endless in their responses and attacks. Here’s Baer’s example of a fictional hater “Chad” and what a two reply response should look like:


Chad: “You guys are the absolute worst. I can’t believe you actually have the guts to accept American currency for your terrible product!”


Business: “We seem to have fallen short in your eyes, Chad. Can you tell me more about what happened, and I’ll do whatever I can to assist?”


Chad: “It won’t matter. It’s not like an idiot like you can fix all that’s wrong with this ridiculous company.”


Business: “I’m sorry you’re unhappy, and would like to help if possible. Please contact me via private message if you’d like me to give it a try.”

If a hater keeps complaining, at this point it will look like just that… complaining. And if you need only one reply to address a complaint, that’s great!

online customer service icon

Switch Channels

It’s likely that you cannot fully address an issue through Facebook, Twitter, Yelp, Google, etc.. Notice in the example above they ask to continue the conversation via a private message. A complaint may require research to resolve, or private information that cannot be shared on a public forum.

It’s also pretty likely, depending on your customers and industry, that the hater may not want to pick up the phone to resolve the issue. Because for a lot of people, talking on the phone is archaic. So take advantage of the behind the scenes messaging systems most social channels provide.

For more information on how to handle complaints on social media, and for a more in-depth take on customer service in a time of public complaints, check out Jay Baer’s new book, Hug Your Haters: How to Embrace Complaints and Keep Your Customers Happy.