Social Media & the Cynic: How to Handle the Sourpuss

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No matter what product or service that is on display in social media, there are going to be people who love it no matter what – and people who hate it no matter what. Everyone else runs the full spectrum – those who can be made loyal customers quickly, and those who tend to be skeptical or cynical, and will turn their backs on a product or service if anything goes wrong.

This article is about those “touchy” consumers, especially the vocal ones. Those who tend to be cynical and are vocal love to post on Facebook, Twitter, and other social media sites about their negative customer experience – for a variety of reasons. Some enjoy the attention. Others want to get “freebies.” Still others just want to see what will happen.

There are three major ways to deal with a “gripe post.” This article reviews these options, as well as their risks and potential outcomes. The brands mentioned are fictional, but the examples of issues are compiled from many different “real world” examples.

1. Ignore it and it will go away (maybe)

Sometimes, if a consumer puts a nasty comment on a company’s Facebook page, or Tweets something rude to a company (or uses other social media to speak out against someone), it can be quite cutting. But choosing to ignore such a comment can be tricky. Therefore, it’s important to determine a couple of things regarding the comment prior to choosing the option to ignore it.

  • What kind of comment it is: Is it trolling, or a legitimate complaint?
  • What kind of complaint it is: Specifically, is the complaint about the product purchased, the service received, or is it about a piece of recent advertising that the consumer found off-putting?

Determining these two things in advance can help determine if ignoring the comment is an appropriate response, or if answering the comment will be the correct route. IF the comment is legitimate, remember, the world is watching. The next two choices will be valid for the company in question.

2. Stating a defending argument (be firm but kind).

If the context is appropriate, and an answer is determined to be the right way to go, then one choice a company has is to reiterate their policies in a firm but kind manner. That is, of course, if the comment is specifically regarding such a theme.

For example, Brand X sold a handbag to a customer who has had it in her possession for one year. After that time, the customer comes to Facebook with the following comment:

“I AM SO ANGRY WITH YOUR COMPANY!!! The “sturdy” handle clasp on my bag BROKE after only using it ONCE! I will never do business with you again, and I’m telling all my friends about your terrible product!!! (My order number was 009X7B. YOU NEED TO TAKE THIS BACK!!!”

The warranty on all the handbags Brand X sells is one year. The time has well elapsed, and there is some question to the legitimacy of only using a handbag once after one year…but that’s not a good idea to point out (and, by not pointing that out, some of the other customers will jump in and do so on the company’s behalf).

An appropriate response from Brand X could be as follows:

“Hi there. Our records are showing that the order placed was over one year ago, and we are unable to accept returns at this time for any product over one year old in accordance with our warranty guidelines. However, we would be happy to offer you a discount on your next purchase. Please contact us directly at [our email address] for service. Thanks again!”

This approach can be risky with a sensitive customer – and, if they’re already upset about a product, sometimes a discount or coupon will not be enough. So…many companies choose to go with the final option, below.

3. The gentle approach – service with a smile (or smiley)

Using the example in number two, the gentle approach from the company would go something like this:

“Hi there. We would love to help you resolve this issue. Please contact our customer service department right away – [contact info here] – we’ll see what we can do!”

The positive approach demonstrates to others a willingness to resolve a sincere problem, and to keep customers happy. Done privately, it adds a touch of class to the company involved.

For the most part, tactic #3 is the preferred choice by many companies offering a variety of services and products. Ideally, the company should, via social media, be ready to admit their “human side,” and offer the chance of resolution. It makes the company look sociable, and can wear down even some of the most cynical curmudgeons.

Pam Velazquez is a content writer for

Image credit Abby Cadaver

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