Last week we talked about some of the personality types of the people who seem to be detractors online. Although some of them are easier to get along with than others, today I thought I’d share some additional insight from Andrea Weckerle, the founder of CiviliNation, a nonprofit dedicated to fighting online hostility and character assassination.
Before we jump into the specifics of how to deal with detractors online, she outlines a number of behaviors, or skills, you need to master to deal with the heartburn of unhappy people:
- Learn to listen: Most people haven’t learned how to listen. If you’re thinking about what you’re going to say next when confronted with a detractor (or anyone for that matter), you aren’t listening. What’s more, you’ll appear confrontational, even if you’re not. Make sure whoever is dealing with online detractors is able to listen.
- Focus on the problem—not the individual: Although the detractor might try to make it personal, don’t. Nothing good comes of a personal attack, despite how satisfying it might feel at the time. All it does is make you look like an idiot. Most of your followers will recognize a jerk spoiling for a fight, but focusing on the problem, those who have no desire to come to a real resolution will quickly be exposed.
- Don’t fall victim to bad logic and baseless arguments: There’s a difference between correlation and causality. Simply because you had a glass of milk the last time you were late for work doesn’t mean that having a glass of milk made you late for work.
- Know your own anger triggers: If you understand what makes you angry, you can be aware of when detractors are trying to get you upset. The attitude you bring to the table plays a big part in whether or not you’re able to successfully resolve a customer service issue.
When dealing with problems online, it’s important to understand that a one-size-fits-all approach doesn’t work. You’ll need to address each issue individually. You’ll want to triage the problem by finding the answer to the following questions:
- What is the problem?
- Who are the people, groups, or companies involved?
- What are the specifics?
- What’s the history and the timeline?
- Is the other side interested in talking?
- Has the other party expressed what they would accept as a resolution?
- What is their conflict style?
- Is this the first time this has happened?
- Are there any legal issues associated with the problem?
- Is this type of problem something you’ve dealt with in the past? What did you do then?
- What are three or four different solutions that would resolve this issue?
Dealing with online detractors and customer service issues often takes finesse and tact in the face of a personal attack. Keeping this list handy, realizing that there are different types of people who complain online, and that keeping the discussion focused on the problem is the first and best line of defense, you should be able to navigate the challenges associated with most of the complaints you’ll face online.