Businesses Beware: Online Customer Service Mistakes to Avoid

by Brittany McSorley

cape cod marketing firmIn these uncertain times, it’s more important than ever for businesses to maintain a strong social media presence. With nearly all buying and selling taking place online for the time being, your customers are more likely to reach out to you through social media channels, whether they’re tagging you in a tweet or sending a direct message via Facebook.

It can be easy to take a casual approach to social media interactions, but any contact with your clients should be professional, no matter the channel. As your trusted Cape Cod marketing firm, we’ve gathered some examples of social media customer service incidents that went very, very wrong. When in doubt, just go for the opposite of these methods:


Radio Silence for British Airways

The Disaster: Back in 2013, British Airways lost someone’s luggage. We get it; things happen. But in this instance, the man’s son, Hassan Syed, tweeted about his dad’s lost belongings, tagging the airline and, here’s the thing, paying to the promote the tweet. It read, “Don’t fly @British_Airways. Their customer service is horrendous.” Yikes. The tweet was allowed to go viral because BA didn’t respond to it for a whopping eight hours. During that window, nearly 80,000 people saw it.

The Lesson: We’re not suggesting that you keep an eye on your social media 24/7, but a huge company that operates at all hours of the day probably should. The point is, don’t ignore your social media mentions for too long. Bad press can get much worse when you leave it unaddressed.


A Dangerous Dismissal

The Disaster: Back when the iPhone 4 came out, there were issues with the new model’s reception. Calls were being dropped thanks to the position of most people’s hands when they held the phone. It was weird. Weirder, though, was that Steve Jobs responded to the widespread reception issues by saying, “Just avoid holding it in that way.” The cheeky suggestion that the customers should adjust their grip on the phone in order to, you know, use it did not go over well. Jobs’ quip spread like wildfire in the press.

The Lesson: Don’t dismiss a customer concern, even if you think you’re right or being funny. You probably are being funny, but still. Just don’t.


A Canned Reply Backfires

The Disaster: Another airline makes a customer service mistake on Twitter! Whether it was to save time or money, American Airlines once used identical canned messages to reply to every tweet they received that seemed complimentary. But when one user ‘congratulated’ them for “creating the largest, sh***iest airline in the world,” whoever was reading the tweet obviously stopped after the first few words and responded with a hearty thank you. Or maybe they had some kind of bot dealing with Twitter mentions? Either way, the original tweet and its reply quickly gained some attention.

The Lesson: Don’t skim, people. Don’t skim.


Do Not Delete

The Disaster: Everyone’s favorite jelly purveyor, Smucker’s, made an unfortunate decision a few years back: to delete comments on its Facebook page that criticized its stance on GMO (genetically modified organism) labeling, as well as comments that asked questions about GMOs in Smucker’s products. Word spread (ha!), and the company’s shady methods were hit with an embarrassing spotlight.

The Lesson: The fastest way to destroy the integrity and trustworthiness of your brand is to try burying negative feedback. It’s best to face a bad review head on and do your best to address customer concerns.


A Hackneyed Response to Hacking

The Disaster: You may recall that Equifax was the victim of an enormous data breach back in 2017. Information on hundreds of millions of Equifax users was compromised due to the hacking, but the company took a leisurely two months to let their users know about it. They then apologized and offered a free membership to another credit monitoring service that left customers less than enthused.

The Lesson: Secret secrets are no fun. Secret secrets hurt someone.


When it comes to using social media for customer service, using common sense and courtesy is the best advice there is. In other words: Be better than Smucker’s.