The do’s and don’ts of handling public online complaints

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Expanding your association’s reach into the online world has been a huge success! You’ve been able to easily communicate all important information to players, parents, and anyone else involved in your child’s sports club. The teams have seen growth, you’ve created a stronger brand, and sponsors have been lining up to be promoted across your online platforms. Everything is going great.

Then one day you check the comments section on one of your social sites and notice that Jane Smith is not happy. It turns out that she feels her son didn’t get as much playing time as the coach’s, and she’s furious! Not only is she upset, but she is using a public space to express her frustrations. This isn’t going to look good on your club to other parents (possibly prospective new registrants) also reading along.
angry comments

It’s 2016 and the public forum has become the new hot spot to lodge complaints, and why not? If you truly feel you’ve been wronged, why not exclaim it in a place where it must be answered – and fast. I’ll leave you with some tips on how to maintain your organization’s professionalism and not let a few comments deteriorate the club image you’ve worked so hard to create:

DO: Carefully read the complaint and understand it completely. Make sure that you actually know what the complaint is about and what their end goal is. We tend to let our first reaction to things supersede the bigger picture. Create a first draft and double check that the issue is identified and addressed.
DON’T: Allow your emotional attachment to the team, players, and organization as a whole to cause you to hastily write a reply. You are the representation of the club in the same way an employee represents their company, and a less-than-professional reply from you is a direct reflection of the club in the eyes of everyone reading.

DO: Act fast! The longer you wait after a negative comment, the more time the individual has to become more and more angry, and the longer the comment sits unanswered to the rest of your followers who may perceive this as unprofessional.
DON’T: Ignore the problem and hope it goes away, or even worse, delete the comment. If your club gets a reputation for deleting negative comments, trust begins to diminish and the problems become far greater than a single complaint.

DO: Move it out of the public forum and into a private conversation as quickly as possible.
DON’T: Continue a back-and-forth conversation with the individual in the public eye. Some people may try to keep the discussion going in the comments, but if the issue cannot be solved with a single reply, let them know how you can be reached to discuss further.

Take a look at how a single father voiced his concerns on social media about being a couple days late to claim his $67,000 50/50 winnings, and how the Edmonton Oilers listened and reacted promptly (spoiler: they allow an exception and award him the winnings).

Hopefully, these can act as a blueprint for you dealing with public complaints moving forward.


Matt Langlois

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