How to Respond to an Upset Customer on Social Media

More than 82% of veterinarians report that either they or a team member has felt intimidated by the language or behavior of an upset customer in the past year, according to 2020 statistics revealed by the British Veterinary Association. Notably, this had increased from 75% in 2019.

As frustrated and upset customers take to social media to voice their complaints, here are six tips to help you respond compassionately and professionally.

1. Acknowledge the Client's Feelings

Whether they are irate, heartbroken, or generally displeased, clients want to be heard. Social media provides the perfect platform for this and validates their feelings through the support of others. When you see it, all you need to say is, "We're sorry to hear about your experience." This neutral expression demonstrates you care, without admitting fault. If you can, use the pet's name to personalize your response.

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2. Outline the Typical Customer Experience

Instead of discussing the particular incident your client is complaining about online, describe your practice's typical protocol. For example, if a client is upset you performed diagnostic testing without permission, state your general procedure. You may also say your team ensures an estimate is signed by the pet's owner or caregiver before any procedure is performed. Feel free to welcome questions about this policy and give your practice's email or phone number. This response doesn't admit fault, nor lays blame at the client's feet. Responding in such a manner allows the public to draw their own conclusions about what happened.

3. Keep It Concise

Rather than getting into a lengthy back-and-forth, keep your reply short and to the point. This not only presents your side of the story simply but helps build credibility through a professional voice. Rambling can quickly devolve and may cause legal issues if confidential information is made public. Stick to just a few, general sentences that acknowledge the customer's complaint and provide an opportunity to discuss the matter further privately.

4. Take It Offline

The key to managing your social media presence in the face of upset customers is to never discuss the matter online. In most cases, you can end your response with a request for the client to contact you at a given phone number or email. If the upset customer was a client you'd like to continue seeing, you likely already reached out in an attempt to remedy the situation. If you couldn't reach the client or don't particularly care to see them again, providing your contact information lets the public see you want to resolve the situation.

5. Remember Your Audience

When responding to a review, you must remember that your audience is the general public, not the upset customer. Although your response is designed to placate the disgruntled client, it's also there for potential customers to see how you handle the situation. The way you respond to negative reviews will demonstrate to the public what type of practice you have, what values you uphold, and whether they should trust your team with their pet's care.

6. Nurture Your Overall Rating

Don't forget to acknowledge the positive reviews! Only replying to negative reviews feeds bad behavior and makes your all-star clients feel unappreciated. When you know your team has gone above and beyond, ask your client to leave a review of their experience.

Still, when those inevitable bad reviews appear, don't beat yourself up. Instead, take a moment—or several—to cool off before replying, then proceed with courtesy and compassion to demonstrate your professionalism. You may not only win back that customer but attract many more in the process.


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Sarah Rumple
Owner, Chief Creative Officer of Rumpus Writing and Editing

Sarah Rumple is an award-winning veterinary writer and editor. Since 2011, her work has focused on pet health/behavior and veterinary practice management topics. Her clients include individual veterinary practice owners, national corporations, nonprofit associations, media companies, consultants, and others. Learn more at sarahrumple.com.

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