Responding to customer complaints on social media can be a minefield for small business owners.
But businesses in the US have been getting a helping hand dealing with their customers’ gripes from US comedians Ben Palmer and Nick Price.
Palmer and Price, who are also the duo behind WeHopeThatHelps.com, have put on their customer service hat and responded to Facebook customer complaints levelled at businesses of all sizes, from local fish and chip shops to United Airlines.
One customer, Kathy, complained to United Airlines about the airlines’ website being down. She said she and her husband were attempting to book their travel arrangements and her husband had to leave for international travel in an hour.
“Customer Service” responded by saying “maybe your husband shouldn’t book his airline travel an hour before leaving. Hope this helps. Jane Customer Service Rep #34”.
Thinking the response she received was from United Airlines itself, Kathy replied to say she was “actually shocked” at the response from “Customer Service”.
“He is leaving on flight already booked for business. We are trying to book through the website for other travel,” she said.
“I would respond to you that as a customer service rep that perhaps you could be a little more helpful and suggest something that might actually remedy the situation.”
But Palmer and Price then took it a step further by telling Kathy they had found the cause of the issue she was encountering.
“It was due to all the porn websites your husband and you went to. Please clear your browser cache and cookies. Hope this helps.”
The Customer Service Facebook page has more than 92,000 fans and the authors regularly share their responses to complaining customers.
But while many of Customer Service’s posts are tongue-in-cheek and an attempt at humour, social media expert Catriona Pollard warns the posts could cause real damage to the business involved.
“It’s a type of hacking essentially,” Pollard told SmartCompany, suggesting instead the comedians should be signing off as themselves to avoid any confusion.
“Small businesses should be checking their Facebook page responses often to be aware if people are doing these types of things.”
Pollard says dealing with irate customers online is difficult enough for many businesses and although there is a sense of humour to these posts, at the end of the day, small businesses owners are just “trying to run their businesses”.
Pollard says businesses should always be careful when using humour to deal with customer service complaints.
While she says using humour “absolutely works” on Facebook as part of a company’s own communications, attempting to crack a joke when someone has complained about a product or service usually backfires.
“You do need to diffuse the situation when you have an irate customer but using humour doesn’t often diffuse it. It tends to make it worse if people don’t feel like they are being taken seriously,” Pollard says.