The Community Manager’s Conflict Playbook

Community managers are beautiful people — calculating and compassionate, resourceful and affable, dedicated and down-to-earth. We’re also brave warriors ready to do battle when needed — always with a cool head, a pre-defined code of conduct, and sophisticated crowd-control tactics.

Face it: Despite the general, warm fuzzy perception of the community manager job description, it ain’t all sunshine and pussy cats. Those same friendly faces of the community we connect with daily can turn on a dime, from excited and engaging to hurtful or harassing.

AimClear’s Community Manager Guide To Intra-Community Bloodshed covers the bases every serious CM should know, from defining a “crisis” to establishing a crisis protocol, addressing the masses to tips on removing comments and banning fans. This, the Community Manager’s Conflict Playbook, addresses various less-than-ideal scenarios and proposed solutions in a step-by-step outline.


Issue #1: Bad Online Experience

Promotional coupon codes are a great way to incentivize online sales, but they can leave a pocket for possible technical difficulties. Customer X comes to your website in hopes of applying an advertised coupon code for a discount upon checkout. There’s an error, and it doesn’t work! Irate, Customer X clicks over to your company Facebook Page and posts a nasty rant-complaint.

What’s a CM to do?

Resolving: Bad Online Experience

As with many of our sample scenarios, there are (at least) two different approaches to resolving:

Quick & Quiet

  1. Document. Take screen captures of Customer X’s Wall post, as well as engagement surrounding said post. You’ll want them later to back up your story, especially if you work for an agency and you want to debrief your client during, or after the fact. Save the images in a dedicated folder, or compile them in a Word document with any additional verbiage needed for clarification. 
  2. Remove the Post! …If you’re able. If Customer X “tagged” your page in a post on his or her own page, you’re more or less out of luck. 
  3. Inform Immediate/Affected Internal Team or Client. Shoot a quick email to anyone who needs to know what’s up so they’re not in the dark. 
  4. Verify the Complaint, Solve the Issue. Check out your site and try applying the coupon code yourself. Do you encounter a similar glitch? Get in touch with your developer, webmaster, or whoever else can help solve the issue. (If you don’t get an issue, consider reaching out to Customer X in the Wall post thread explaining this. Ask them to try again or contact a dedicated customer support email address for further assistance.) 
  5. Contact Customer X Privately… If you’re able. Maybe he or she is a returning customer and you have an email address on file, or maybe as the CM, you’re willing to send a private message from your personal Facebook account (assuming privacy settings allow you to do so). Apologize for the inconvenience, thank Customer X for bringing the issue to your attention, explain that it’s been solved, and consider offering an extra incentive to come on back, such as an additional discount. 
  6. Compile A Case Study & Circulate! The good news is these issues can be a valuable learning experience for your internal team and/or the client as well. Assemble your screen caps and any follow-up engagement with Customer X or other brand-fans into a cohesive case study and circulate it among your team so everyone’s up to speed and in the loop.

Public & Pleasing

This approach is advised for those of you uncomfortable with removing user generated content simply because it’s negative in nature. Refer above for clarification on any of the steps we’ve already run through.

  1. Document. 
  2. Inform Immediate/Affected Internal Team or Client. 
  3. Acknowledge Publicly. Jump in the thread and inform Customer X you’re working on the problem and apologize for the inconvenience. 
  4. Verify the Complaint, Solve the Issue. 
  5. Update Community. Jump back in the thread when everything’s fixed so the community, especially Customer X, knows what’s up. 
  6. Compile A Case Study & Circulate!

Issue #2: Bad Offline Experience

Customer Y calls one of your brick-and-mortar locations to set up an on-site service. Something goes wrong and the employee on the other end of the line accidentally botches the scheduling. When Customer Y comes in, he/she can’t be seen and has just wasted his/her lunch hour. Frustrated and irritable, Customer posts a ranton your company Facebook Wall.

What’s a CM to do?

Resolving: Bad Offline Experience

  1. Document. 
  2. Inform Immediate/Affected Internal Team or Client. 
  3. Cross Reference. Get in touch with the on-site location in question. Cross reference Customer Y’s story with the customer service department to understand what went wrong (who was really at fault). Arrive at a sensible solution and possible compensation. (An appointment at his / her convenience? A discount on the service being performed?) 
  4. Acknowledge Publicly. 
  5. Offer “Offline” Follow Up. Ask Customer Y to shoot you an email at your dedicated customer service address so you can follow up privately. Offer your solution / compensation. 
  6. Compile A Case Study & Circulate!

Issue #3: Promotion Gone Wrong

Your company hosts a prize-based photo contest via a third-party app (a la Wildfire) on Facebook. When you announce the winner, some losers freak out – crying favoritism, harassing winners, questioning legitimacy of the judging process, claiming your brand is corrupt, complaining they didn’t win for absurd reasons (racism, prejudice)… all on your company Facebook Wall.

What’s a CM to do?

Resolving: Promotion Gone Wrong

  1. Document. 
  2. Inform Immediate/Affected Internal Team or Client. 
  3. Craft Official Brand Statement. A scenario like this affects more than just one disgruntled customer, and as such, might require a public message aimed at the whole community. Compose a thoughtful, succinct brand statement that addresses the issue, dispels any misinformation, and explains your brand position. (Tip: Don’t over-apologize, grovel, or get emotional about things. “It’s not personal, it’s business!”) 
  4. Publish as a Note (or Fresh Status Update). If you’re taking the time to create and post a brand statement, be sure to put it in a place where it will get found. 
  5. Monitor For 24 Hours. You don’t have to respond to every comment your brand statement garners, but you should be aware of it, and… 
  6. Remove Follow Up Comments & Ban Fans As Needed. People still being jerks? Throw ‘em out if you see fit. It’s your space, after all. 
  7. Walk away! Don’t over-apologize and don’t continuously regurgitate your brand statement for every new complainer who joins the mob. You did your job by posting the response. It’s up to each individual if he or she is going to accept it. 
  8. Compile A Case Study & Circulate!

Issue #4: Talkin’ Smack About Your Brand

Facebook Fan Z leaves nasty comments every time you post a status update on your company FB Wall. Some are just rude and unconstructive. Some flat-out attack brand. Some are straight-up libel!

What’s a CM to do?

Resolving: Talkin’ Smack About Your Brand

  1. Document. 
  2. Inform Immediate/Affected Internal Team or Client. 
  3. Gauge Intent. Determine if complainer has or had a legitimate complaint and if it’s manifesting in these nasty comments, or if he/she is just a troll. 
  4. Respond Appropriately. If it’s legit, handle as you would bad brand experience. If it’s baseless, remove comments at will. If it persists, block the user (and/or call the lawyer if it really gets out of hand!). 
  5. Compile A Case Study & Circulate!

Issue #5: Brand Product Kills Someone

Your company manufactures snack food. You get a shipment of Ingredient J, and it’s is tainted. Consumer Q eats your product, gets food poisoning, and dies. Negative brand mentions are cropping up on Facebook, not to mention various online news sources. Eeeeush.

What’s a CM to do?

Resolving: Brand Product Kills Someone

  1. Alert the Lawyers & PR Team! 
  2. Document. 
  3. 24/7 Monitoring of Brand, Misspellings & Names. Dispel damaging misinformation, listen for tone – hostile or sympathetic – and gauge association of brand to tragedy. 
  4. Damage Control. Work with your PR team (in-house or agency) to do damage control on a professional, comprehensive level. 
  5. Compile A Case Study & Circulate!

There you have it! While there are many possible issues the everyday CM might run into, we hope these sample scenarios and solutions helped arm you with some trusted tactics for the future.

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