Ouch! How to respond to negative feedback online

Receiving positive comments online is one of the most satisfying experiences for an inbound marketer. It’s a great morale booster and, of course, an opportunity for you to further promote your brand, your products or your services. Whether it’s a quick shout-out on Twitter, a post on your Facebook wall, a comment on a LinkedIn discussion, or a review on Yelp or Kudzu, positive feedback is always greatly appreciated and can create momentum for your business. But what about the not so nice comments? Have you ever felt like you just wanted to give someone a piece of your mind because they said something bad about your company? Have you ever had the urge to purge negative posts from your website or your Facebook wall because you didn’t think that the comments were justified? Sure you have. But after thinking about it for a minute, you probably thought the better of it. After all, responding appropriately to negativity is an important component of marketing and customer relations.  So what should you do?

 

Don’t:

  • Take it personally. While it’s human nature to get defensive when you feel that your company is being criticized, remember that it’s not a personal attack on you.
  • Discredit their opinion. Whether the criticism is justified or not, keep in mind that someone cared enough to interact with you and let you know that they had a bad experience. Don’t try to shoot back with a snarky comment or trivialize their concerns.
  • Delete comments or try to have them removed. First of all, nothing is ever completely erased. Some comments may still show up on cached pages, so if someone stumbles upon them and realizes the discrepancy, it hurts your credibility. Personally, I’m very skeptical of vendors who don’t seem to subscribe to a philosophy of transparency, and I’m much more inclined to do business with people who are not afraid to deal with feedback and with their customers honestly.
  • Waste the opportunity. Negative feedback presents several opportunities: to show your audience that you care, to turn someone around, and to gain valuable insights that might result in service and product improvements.

Do:

  • Respond as quickly as possible. Show that you’re paying attention and respond right away. Response time is often viewed as a prime indicator of the type of customer services that a company provides.
  • Thank them for their feedback. Acknowledge the fact that someone actively interacted with your brand. You may not agree with their opinion, but as mentioned above, they just created an opportunity for you to improve your customer relations.
  • Craft a personal response. A cookie cutter response to negative feedback is unlikely to be a game changer. Be personable. Whenever possible, address the person by their name and introduce yourself as well, so you can establish the foundation for a constructive dialog.
  • Suggest next steps. After finding out what your critic’s pain point or complaint is, discuss with them ideas on how to proceed. Are they willing to provide you with more information? Are you able to offer them something for their troubles? Have an honest talk about how you can resolve the issues.

If your team consists of multiple people who interact with your prospects and customers online, make sure that you collectively discuss best practices and specific scenarios in order to make sure that everybody is on the same page. As always, talk about what worked best in certain situations and adjust your approach accordingly.
What are some other dos and don’ts with regard to negative feedback?

Kat is the CEO of Spectate. Her goal is to empower users to create and manage their web content and to provide them with the tools to become even better content marketers. Connect with Kat on Google+!

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