If you do it right! And that’s what this article is about. Like death and taxes, some things in business are inevitable. Even if your product or service is the best on the market and your customer service is better than everyone else’s, you can’t make everyone happy all the time. At some point, you will deal with negative feedback and dissatisfied customers posting on social media platforms.
The Internet makes it quick and easy for your customers to post reviews and comments about you and your company. Think about it: Yelp, Google Places, Hotfrog, and Merchant Circle all give your customers places to drop a comment or two. As well, a computer screen gives a certain degree of anonymity, so they feel they can say whatever they want without the filter normally present in face-to-face interactions.
Let’s face it. Many people online are unafraid to share the most intimate details of their lives, from what they ate for lunch that day to problems with their exes. What’s going to stop them from posting negative information about your company when they feel slighted?
Turning Negatives Into Positives Through Action
You don’t want your brand tarnished by these types of comments, but it certainly isn’t the end of the world if you come across someone with a bad experience or an axe to grind. Rather, it’s just a fact of life. How you respond to the negativity, though, is critical. You still have a business to run and a brand to protect. Look at it as a chance to improve your brand, and then take action to remedy the situation.
1. Check your systems. When you receive negative feedback, your first step should be a quick check of your systems. Let’s imagine for a moment that you sell informational books, CDs, and DVDs. What happens if a customer starts complaining in an online forum that he didn’t receive a book he ordered? Your first reaction should be, “How did this happen?” Then you need to start looking through the quality control structure you have in place to find out where the process failed (you do have some kind of checks and balances system, right?).
Was there a delay in shipping? It might be time to evaluate your shipping company, and—if necessary—find a new, more reliable one. Did your online order system fail? Find out what happened and take the steps to fix the glitch. Use this as an opportunity to make sure everything and everyone involved in your production process works effectively so this won’t happen in the future.
2. Offer a solution. Once you’ve investigated and found the source of the problem, you need to take steps to correct it with your customer. Initiate contact privately and explain what happened. Then offer some sort of compensation. Ask the customer, “What can I do to make this better?” You may be surprised to hear the answer.
Sometimes they won’t know what to say. In this case, you can offer to give a discount on a future purchase, a partial refund, or a complimentary product. Sometimes they may specifically request this. Regardless of the response, it is usually in your best interest to sacrifice a small profit to retain the client and rebuild your damaged (in their eyes) image.
3. Address the issue online. Once you’ve taken steps to correct the issue with your client, you can address the online comment. Be very careful about what you say, because you have potentially millions of eyes watching your response, and this has a direct effect on your brand. As you do so, you need to keep a few ideas in mind.
- Don’t wait. The longer the comment goes unaddressed, the longer your customer has to build negative feelings about you and your company. It also means that potential customers are seeing only the negative ideas about you. Make sure you take care of everything offline, but don’t put off responding to the comment longer than necessary. It can taint your brand to have such negativity posted without a response.
- Keep it impersonal. This issue is not about the dissatisfied customer as a person. It is about the interaction the person had with your company. For example, if you discovered that your customer didn’t enter the correct credit card number, say something like, “Thanks for letting me know there was a problem. Everything should be resolved now, and you should have your book soon.” You don’t want to point out something like, “I can’t process your order if you don’t enter your information correctly.”
- Stay calm. What you say will have an effect on your brand, and you always want to be seen in the most positive light possible. Even if the comment is a direct, dishonest attack on you, you must remain the ultimate professional. Refuse to respond in a derogatory manner and remind yourself that it’s not really about you.
4. Drop the rope. Sometimes you won’t be able to please certain people, and the best course of action is to move on and learn from it. You did the best you could. You checked to see if there was a problem on your end and corrected it. You offered a solution. You responded professionally and politely. A certain group of people will always see only the negative, and nothing you do will change that. Instead of concentrating all your energy on this small group of people, pay attention to those who are thrilled with your products and services.
Transactions with Transparency
So, not everybody likes your stuff. Get over it. Deal with it. Use it to grow and become a better business owner, develop a better brand and create a strong product. Negativity is only negative if you don’t use it.
Along with the tips above, it’s also worth mentioning one thing you don’t do. Don’t try to hide it. Some of the most successful marketing campaigns started because a customer/client posted a negative comment about a product. Rather than delete the comment or otherwise shove it under the rug, the companies embraced the negativity and turned it into a positive marketing campaign.
“You’ve said our products suck. We’ve listened. Welcome to the new…”
Don’t be afraid to deal with the commenter publicly, at first. AT&T is good at this. Someone posts on Twitter “Thanks AT&T, for dropping my business conference for the fifth time in a row.” AT&T customer service responds with, “Hey, we’re sorry to hear there was a problem. If you’ll follow us, we’ll get you on DM and get some information to help you solve the issues.”
Letting consumers see the negative comment and your positive reaction provides a much stronger example of how you’ll deal with potential clients. It says, “I care, and am willing to work with you to get the problem resolved.”
Negative Comments Happen, But a Damaged Reputation Doesn’t Have To
Although I certainly hope you never have to address online negative comments posted about your company, just be aware that it may happen. Remember managing reputation is not an easy thing to control…they don’t have to cause untold damage to your company or brand, and use the opportunity as a chance to show the world you are a professional with great respect for your customers.
I find that sometimes having a problem come up and then addressing it leaves your relationship with your client in better standing than not having a problem in the first place.
Addressing a problem effectively is a credibility boost. It strengthens a relationship because it shows that you can be trusted, that you care, and it can also make you more relatable (‘to err is human’).
Very nice article. I loved your responses. And, you are absolutely correct. If we respond with an upbeat – “I’m here to make this right… it is very difficult for someone to continue in the negative, (except those people who seem to live for it and they have to be let go). Thanks for sharing something that needed to be told! Enjoyed.
Ann, thank you for taking the time to post! 🙂 Enjoy your weekend!
Great advice! Whilst it’s inevitable that every company will get bad feedback and comments at times, like you say, the trick is to bounce back and turn the comment into a way to show your caring and loyalty to customers and the service you provide.
Needless to say, I personally have had to deal with disgruntled clients during my time as a web designer. What I always try to do is to call the client in person and directly find out what the problem is from them. This way, even more so that simply replying to emails or comments, it shows a real interest in why they are unhappy. By simply doing this, more often than not, you can completely turn the client around and once the issue is solved, they become extremely happy with the service provided.
I’d like to think that in doing this, I’ve helped maintain a fantastic reputation for our company, but I can’t help but feel personally very satisfied that I’ve been able to help others too.
What a great article! And so true.
I wish more brands would look at it this way and not just comment online to apologise, but also make a change in the real world. If people are giving you feedback online, this means they are providing you with an opportunity to make a change.
If somebody walks into your shop and complaints, you would not ignore them. So why do so online?
And there are great tools out there to assist brands and companies with measuring their reputation online. These need to be used and implemented in order to measure the impact of comments, the reputation of the brand, etc.
Hey Carla, so nice to see you on this side of the track 😉 . Your comment cracked me up. “If somebody walks into your shop and complaints, you would not ignore them. So why do so online?” that’s so true. I don’t know why people think just because they are behind a monitor it’s okay to forget about manners? ~meh
Sound advice, thanks for great post Debbie:)
Again, good advice! More people should listen to this. A simple other thing. I used to work with Yachtworld, as a broker hosted on their site. They’re making a few million $ per month with subscriptions and direct advertising. I lost one of the managers phone number, so I e-mailed them using the “contact” form to ask someone something. I still haven’t got an answer. I addressed them on Twitter. Just the same. I think they’re over-saturated and don’t care anymore.
Hey Daniel, it’s sad when it gets to the point where they don’t care. The fact they didn’t even respond on Twitter. When you consider what would it take to respond to your query. A few minutes out of their day which in turn could give them the best advertisement in the world. A happy customer may not be a big deal for them but considering what you have done to get through to them. It would benefit them in the long run…
About Yachtworld and Twitter is a great deal of misunderstanding. Doesn’t matter who is managing their both accounts, they’re that sort with a few thousand followers, following a few hundred absolutely aleatory. I didn’t know they have twitter, but I found one of my acquaintances was followed by them, a few replies changed between them, so I contacted both. They have no idea, especially the guy in question, to use Twitter. They have the accounts because is trendy. Yachtworld and boats.com are Dominion Enterprises’ proprieties with shows, magazines and this two brokerage sites and that’s all. The guys buying boats are barely using the internet more than looking for other boats and such. I remember of interminable phone talks and talks, and resizing thousand of pics. The clients didn’t know how to open a pdf, I think they haven’t had Acrobat installed on their ancient computers.
They benefit without “socializing” anyway. They have the market at the moment because the lack of competition. so, if they continue to ignore mails from potential subscribers, nothing can be done. Their coverage is better than anything anyone can offer at the moment. I start to type “boa”(from boats) in the browser and the choice is directly yachtworld.com and yachtworld.uk.co. Amazing.
Thanks Gabi for not ignoring me..