Sometimes my wife has a bad day.

Someone cuts her off. She receives a snarky email. Her computer gets a virus. Her haircut goes wrong. At times like these, she has taught me the most important lesson when it comes to being on the receiving end of someone complaining:

“Hear me now, listen to me later.”

It took me years to understand what she was talking about. Effectively, she’s telling me that she wants me to just let her vent and for me to agree with her. This is not the time for explaining things or, worse, trying to fix things. After she’s done, then–and only then–is she ready for me to listen, digest, and help resolve the issues.

It’s a lesson we could all use in our social media monitoring.

In effect, your customers, employees, vendors, investors, complain for two reasons. First, they want you to “hear” their complaint. Often, they turn to Twitter, Facebook, or their blogs, because you didn’t provide any means for them to state their case to you. They crank up their volume because they are desperate to know that you are willing to hear what they have to say. At this point, they don’t want a fix. They want an apology. Verbal, written, and maybe even with a discount or refund.

After that, they want you to “listen” to their complaint. Not just hear it, they want to see evidence that their complaint has really sunk in. This is the time for you to fix that bug, address that customer service issue, or address that rude employee. It’s here that you take action and rectify the situation that gave rise to the complaint in the first place. It’s time for action!

So, the next time you see a customer complaint, remember to both hear and listen to them.

P.S. To all new husbands out there, reading this, you’re welcome! ;-)

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