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This guest post was contributed by Ernest Thompson. Ernest is a digital marketer with a slight Twitter obsession. You can read more about him over on the Social Media Marketing Guide website at the link. For the Starbucks fans, his favorite drink is a Pumpkin spice Latte. Sorry, it’s just delicious!

If you’re ever looking to have a laugh at other people making big deals about very, very small issues, I invite you to enter the following into the Twitter search bar along the top:

to:starbucks :(

Copy and paste that exact code and search it. You will now enter into a world of people who, really, have everything they need. They have access to the Internet. They have money to shop at Starbucks. That is more than a lot of people around the world can say. But they also have everything to complain about.

The truly odd thing is that they complain through Twitter rather than to the specific store in question. This shows that the era of digital customer service is clearly upon us. Now what can you learn about using social media for customer service, and online customer service in general, by reading the :( tweets sent to Starbucks? Keep reading and let’s find out why it’s important for your marketing, for your brand goals, and is one key way to get followers on Twitter.

Minor complaints to Starbucks

There are different levels of complaints that @Starbucks receive on a daily basis through Twitter. There are technical issues, like app, email customer support, and website problems:

These are the types of customer complaints that you expect to deal with on Twitter: You’re in a digital environment, you expect to deal with digital complaints. These types of issues will likely be the first things you get your customer support agents trained on when you use digital customer support techniques. This is because many of your new agents will not be up on the little technical sides of your business.

The problem, however, is that social media and the web are no longer entities that exist purely in the digital realm. They’re part of everyday life with smartphones, tablets, and laptops being carried around as regularly as wallets and purses!

Part of why people love social media is the immediacy of it. The instant connection which seems faster than real life. Because of this you can now get a customer complaint on a digital platform from a customer who’s sitting inside one of your stores. Why don’t they go to the manager? I couldn’t tell you as my psychic levels are low today. All that I can say for certain is that you’ll have to be ready for digital complaints like this:

In each of these cases there isn’t really a single thing that a digital customer support agent can do in any direct way. They can’t reach behind the counter and give these people a fresh coffee, or add caramel to their frappe, or whatever. These are problems that should have been dealt with in the store with the manager, but instead they become an issue for digital customer support staff.

These types of minor ‘I’m sad about something small’ messages are a top priority for your customer support agents. They need to be prepared for them in advance as you teach them how to use Twitter for your brand. Since they can’t do anything directly themselves, especially in the small text box of Twitter, you need a backup plan. Try:

  • Having a phone number for local customers to call.
  • Inviting them to return to the store after your agents have contacted them. This will depend on the size of your operation.
  • Do what Starbucks does and have an email address that can better handle the issues.

You’re never going to solve issues like these on Twitter alone. The faster you can move it to the real world, the better. Most digital customer support tools are not big picture tools. They are there to put out fires quickly so that blazes can be avoided.

Speaking of those blazes…

Major customer service issues that require a delicate touch

Starbucks sells coffee and snacks. They don’t perform heart surgery, they aren’t securing the borders of the nation. But this won’t stop some people from complaining on their Twitter account at EPIC levels.

First, I want to look at a tweet that every customer support agent needs to be ready for:

You must respond to messages like this quickly, and with the right empathy, or face a lawsuit. Again, why this person chose to complain on Twitter rather than directly to the store with the icey entrance is beyond me. But when it lands in the lap of a digital support agent they MUST recognize the severity of these issues.

Now I’ll look at the types of complaints you’ll get online that I’m going to have to censor. You’ll notice above that all the tweets are live embed. The cursing used in these tweets prevent me. Here are the most extreme types of messages that customer support agents will come across. For the actual tweet, here’s the link to image 1, image 2, and image 3. They’re NSFW language wise.

Starbucks customer complaints

Now what on Earth do you do when someone comes at you this aggressively, and with little in the way of an actual complaint? My advice: Nothing. Let them vent that, and don’t give them the credibility of a response.

The last thing you want to do is encourage these people. Your customer service team will need to learn the difference between real complaints that happen in the digital realm, and pure trolling for attention.

What I learned from Starbuck’s customer complaints

The overall theme of everything I learned here is this:

In digital customer support, people want to be heard more than they want to be helped.

Train your customer support agents to think that they’re more like cheap therapists, solving minor emotional needs, than as the people who will ultimately solve the problems behind their complaints. They’re not going to be able to get them a new frappe. They won’t be able to put salt on the ice in front of the entrance door. But they can make sure that customers know that they’re heard, and that something can be done.

Last, they have to know that none of this is personal. For every four letter word thrown their way they need to see the sad, lonely person sending it. These people also want to know that someone is listening, but I would not advise you to give them the satisfaction. There will be no benefit for your company, and some smug satisfaction for them. Focus your time and energy on those with actual complaints you can help solve when using any type of digital customer support tool!

This guest post was contributed by Ernest Thompson. Ernest is a digital marketer with a slight Twitter obsession. You can read more about him over on the Social Media Marketing Guide website at the link. For the Starbucks fans, his favorite drink is a Pumpkin spice Latte. Sorry, it’s just delicious!